Edinburgh scientists study ways to prevent limb amputation

15 November 2016        

Category: Research

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have received a £209,650 grant to explore how to improve blood vessel function in critical limb ischemia, a condition characterised by a severe reduction of the blood flow to the limbs. 

Critical limb ischemia is the advanced stage of peripheral artery disease, which results from a progressive thickening of the artery wall, caused by a build-up of plaque, known as atherosclerosis. This narrows or blocks blood flow to the legs, and can lead to complications including sores and non-healing wounds, which if left untreated, can result in devastating leg amputation.

People who smoke, have diabetes, or have high cholesterol are more at risk of developing peripheral vascular disease.

Critical limb ischaema

Dr Andrea Caporali, a BHF Intermediate Fellow and a Chancellor’s Fellow at the Centre for Cardiovascular Science, said: “For patients with critical limb ischaemia the priority is to re-grow the blood vessels and re-establish the circulation to preserve the leg.

“From our experimental models in mice, we know that a well-defined class of small molecules, microRNAs, have the potential to regulate vessel growth. We have used this model in our studies. In isolated endothelial cells, which line the internal surface of blood vessels, we discovered a specific microRNA-26b that could help vessels grow and survive after ischaemia has occurred. 

Help patients

“We want to discover more about microRNA-26b: how it helps to grow endothelial cells and vessels, how ischaemia controls and affects this small RNA, and if controlling microRNA-26b could help to treat ischaemic disease.

“Our approach may help patients with critical limb ischemia, for whom surgical procedures aren’t effective, to receive better treatment in the future and avoid limb amputation.”

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