Arteriosclerosis or Atherosclerosis is also called Arterial Calcification. In this disease deposits of blood fats, thrombi, and connective tissue are found in the arteries. Small amounts of calcium phosphate can also get embedded into vascular walls.
Circulatory disturbances induced by arteriosclerosis are the most frequent cause of death in the Western world. The disease is developing slowly, often without symptoms, over decades. In the end it can result in circulation deficits of tissues and organs, in thromboses, angina pectoris, heart attack, stroke, or even sudden cardiac death.
The majority of medical professionals agree that arteriosclerosis begins with an injury of the inner artery wall. Usually the human body is responding to these small injuries with its natural “adhesive patch”, so-called thrombocytes. However, in arteriosclerosis fat-rich substances, collagens, as well as proteoglycans are accumulating at the wound site and thus lead to an irregular uneven wound closure.
This newly developed rough scar causes turbulence and deceleration of the blood flow. As a consequence, thrombocytes are sticking additionally to these plaques, thus leading to the formation of a bottleneck. The following undersupply of organs, which are normally fed by these arteries, is the cornerstone of arteriosclerosis.
Another theory says that fat and cholesterol-rich nutrition is also noticeable in the blood and that in case of a ruptured inner vessel wall (intima) elevated blood fats are leading to a deposit between intima and media. This type of vascular constriction is called arteriosclerosis, while the term for a constriction due to a scarred intima would be atherosclerosis. Both terms are often used synonymously.
The susceptibility of arteries for “calcification” is strongly encouraged by factors like stress, high blood pressure, overweight, diabetes, smoking, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Therapy of Arteriosclerosis
The patient’s lifestyle should in general be examined and, if necessary, adjusted. Parameters of particular importance are sufficient exercise, calorie-reduced nutrition, the treatment of possibly existing high blood pressure, and the reduction of cholesterol. If required, a drug therapy with anti-platelet agents like ASS or Clopidogrel may also be carried out.
For the diagnosis and treatment of arteriosclerosis a cardiac catheter examination is performed. After making a successful diagnosis a balloon is inserted to stretch the narrowed spot. Admittedly, this form of therapy only offers relative help because it quite often happens that the spot is narrowing again after the surgery. That is why a so-called stent could be useful.
A stent is a net-like tube, which should keep the narrowed location open permanently. A further treatment method is a bypass surgery. In this surgery parts of the veins from the upper and lower thigh are removed and formed to a diversion in place where the narrowing had been.
Stem Cell Therapy of Arteriosclerosis
Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) or Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF) obtained from the patient’s own fat can be used in arteriosclerosis and its secondary complications like heart attack, stroke, circulatory disturbances in the legs, etc.
Stem cells are said to be precursor cells of all completed body cells. In the meanwhile we know that mesenchymal stem cells primarily act via modulating the immune system and stimulating regeneration of tissue and blood vessels by cytokines. Because arteriosclerosis both has an inflammatory and a degenerative component, the use of mesenchymal stem cells is proposes itself.
The mesenchymal stem cells are extracted from a small portion of fat tat is harvested by means of liposuction. Immediately after isolation the stem cells are injected into the areas concerned or administered systemically. If the stem cells or cytokines released by them stimulate the regeneration of the blood vessels, an improvement of the circulatory disturbances can be achieved. This regenerative effect of mesenchymal stem cells has already been confirmed in a number of studies.