We have talked so many times about venous insufficiency…its causes and management. From one of previous newsletters “Most leg problems are caused by age, obesity, sedate lifestyle, standing or sitting for long periods of time, past surgeries, pregnancy, or heredity. You must remember the heart is a one-way pump. The heart pumps blood from the heart through the arteries to the various parts of the body. The veins have the arduous task to return the blood to the heart along with waste and metabolic residue. The movement of the blood toward the heart can be a challenge. Gravity forces the veins to work harder to return the blood to the heart. The veins have little one way valves that work with the leg muscles to pump the blood back to the heart. In a normal vein, one way valves are located ever 2 – 5 cm to aid in the proximal flow toward the heart. When calf muscles relax, the valves close to prevent blood from flowing backward into the lower part of the veins. These valves are fragile and can be easily damaged. The contraction and relaxation of the calf muscles work as a “secondary pump” to move the blood. Many things can happen that interrupts this blood flow. The valves in the veins may be injured and do not close completely and allow the blood to
remain in the lower leg. ”
Now we have the possibility of a new treatment. Narine Sarvazyan, a professor of pharmacology and physiology and a researcher at the George Washington University has made a startling discovery that could improve the treatment for people with impaired blood flow. Stem cells (muscle cells) from the patient’s own heart are harvested and modified so they become programmable stem cells. Using a patient’s own tissue has many different advantages, the most important being the elimination of any risk of rejection. Unlike the controversial embryonic stem cell, adult stem cells can generally only form cell tissue associated with the organ that it was extracted from. In the laboratory these harvested stem cells are grown into “mini hearts”. They are one millimeter in diameter that behave “surprisingly similarly” to a real full-sized heart. These tiny hearts can be implanted to encourage blood flow in veins that have compromised valves. The “mini heart” is a rhythmically contracting “cuff” of heart muscle cells that encircle the problem vein and pumps blood as it beats.
Research is continuing. Perhaps we can look forward to one day when we no longer suffer from venous insufficiency. In the mean time keep wearing your support socks and hose to keep your legs healthy.