A woman received a transplant of her own bone marrow stem cells, was able to avoid an amputation, and has started to walk again following an operation performed at Catholic University in Campobasso. This is one of the few such operations performed in Europe on the cardiovascular system using adult stem cells. The results were announced yesterday, about a month after the operation, and it is now clear that it will not be necessary to amputate the woman’s leg. “We can say that the operation was a complete success surgically,” said doctors that worked under Francesco Alessandrini, the director of the Cardiovascular Disease Department. It was a team effort thanks to the collaboration of the Hematology Unit led by Sergio Stroti, the Medical Images Department led by Giuseppina Sallustio, the laboratory led by Bruno Zappacosta, and the Anaesthesia and Intensive Therapy Unit led by Marco Rossi.
The operation was performed on September 23 on a woman who risked having her leg amputated. A lack of oxygen present in the tissues due to an ischemia that was preventing blood permeation, caused tissue degeneration and death. Normally, said the doctors, for patients with these types of problems there is no alternative to amputation because ischemia and tissue death are irreversible. The doctors decided to try a new approach, using stem cells from the same patient to restore blood circulation in the leg. During the operation, the doctors isolated progenitor cells of the blood vessels from the patient’s bone marrow, then they immediately injected them into the patient’s leg. Once injected, the cells began to multiply, generating new blood vessels that allowed oxygen to reached the tissue, avoiding cell death.
The project, approved by the Catholic University’s Ethics Committee, was financed by the university. Today, said doctors, the patient is in good condition and has returned home. She is periodically inspected as an outpatient and the results are encouraging. “She no longer has pain typical of gangrene, the temperature of her leg is normal, and she has even started to walk.” Doctors specified that “the objective of the experiment was not to revolutionize traditional treatments for vascular diseases, which are still completely valid, but was to offer another efficient possibility for patients who have not responded to standard treatments.”