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Emory Heart & Vascular Center receives $3.8M NIH grant to help decrease PAD symptoms

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Jennifer Johnson McEwen
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Researchers at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center have received a $3.8 million grant to study the growth of new blood vessels to help improve symptoms of peripheral arterial disease or PAD.

The five-year grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) will be used to investigate whether GM-CSF (granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor), a drug used to restore white blood cell numbers during cancer treatment, improves symptoms and blood flow in people with PAD.

"Our study focuses on the potential of GM-CSF to stimulate bone marrow to release stem cells," says study leader Arshed Quyyumi, MD, professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and co-director of the Emory Clinical Cardiovascular Research Institute (ECCRI). 

"We want to know if those stem cells produced by this blood cell growth factor will stimulate the development of new blood vessels and ultimately improve symptoms of PAD by increasing blood flow."  

In PAD, plaque can harden and narrow the arteries, which limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the organs and other parts of the body. Patients have trouble getting enough blood to their legs during exercise, leading to impaired mobility and pain after exertion. PAD can also increase the risk of infection, which can lead to tissue death and amputation.

Participants in the Emory study will be randomly selected to receive GM-CSF or placebo. After a four-week screening phase, subjects will receive injections of GM-CSF or placebo three times a week for three weeks.

Three months later, subjects will again receive injections of GM-CSF or placebo three times a week for three weeks. At six and nine months, the study team will follow up to see if the group that received GM-CSF had more improvement than the group that received placebo. 

In a 2013 clinical trial, Quyyumi and his ECCRI colleagues found that GM-CSF could help patients with PAD walk longer on a treadmill, improving the overall mobility of some of the study participants.

For more information about the Emory PAD study, please call 404-778-7777 or 1-800-75-EMORY.

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