Adult stem cell trial sees success at IU

Adult stem cell trial sees success at IU

Anne Marie Tiernon/Eyewitness News

Stem cell research at Indiana University has led to a medical milestone. The clinical trial was an attempt to save limbs from amputation with a patient's own stem cells. Patients traveled to Indiana from around the country.

Ruth Diggs, 78, wasn't able to stand at all before she entered the trial. Now she can walk to the exam room.

Diggs' daughter, Melvina Jacacki, said her mother was wheelchair-bound before the trial. That was back home in New York, when the 78-year-old was diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease

"I had so much pain," said Diggs, whose situation was so severe that doctors said surgical repairs wouldn't work.

"They were just telling me the only solution for me was to amputate the leg," said Diggs.

Not wanting that, Diggs, enrolled in a pioneering phase one clinical trial at the IU School of Medicine.

"This is the first trial of its kind to be completed in the United States that was FDA-approved with stem cells for peripheral vascular disease, so I think it absolutely is a ground-breaking trial," said Dr. Keith March, director of IU Center of Vascular Biology and Medicine.

Fifteen patients enrolled in the trial. Now at the conclusion of the trial over two years later, none have lost a limb.

"This study is reserved for those people whose only hope or option for relief of pain would be an amputation," said Dr. Mike Murphy, principal investigator and IU associate professor, Dept. of Surgery.

Fifty person of those enrolled are considered responders like Ruth Diggs.

Researchers removed bone marrow from patients' hips, isolated adult stem cells in the lab and then reinjected a patient's own stem cells back into the leg.

"When these kinds of stem cells are injected in they secrete a number of factors to instruct tissues around them or help them not to die," said Dr. March.

In some cases the cells can even promote new growth.

For Ruth Diggs it means mobility.

"The fact that she has her leg, we are very, very grateful," said Jagacki.

The success so far now means the IU Center for Vascular Biology and Medicine will expand stem cell trials for PAD to 80 patients and add studies on stroke and heart disease.

"It marks IU as a hot house for adult stem cell research in the United States if not the world," said Dr. March.

"It did great things for me and I fell like it will also help others," said Diggs.