Arterial Limb Disease Fact Sheet
CIRM funds projects seeking to better understand arterial limb disease and to translate those discoveries into new therapies.
Peripheral limb ischemia, most often characterized as hardening of the arteries in the legs, may be present in as much as 20 percent of the population. But in a small fraction, around two million Americans, it has progressed to the point that it causes pain even when resting and threatens to result in amputation due to wounds that refuse to heal because of poor blood circulation. This condition is called Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI), and patients diagnosed with CLI are at risk for limb amputations (10 to 40%) and even death (50% within 5 years)1.
Physicians can often treat CLI with various forms of minimally invasive surgery. They thread a catheter into the artery or vein and use a balloon or stent to push the blockage back against the vessel wall or a laser to vaporize the plaque. But many CLI patients have disease that is too extensive for these procedures to be fully effective, so for the past few years many researchers have searched for ways to coax the patients’ bodies into growing new blood vessels through a process called angiogenesis. More recently researchers have started to investigate the possibility that stem cells could help with this new vessel growth.