Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research 2019 Life-saving Seaweed

Keeping white blood cells called monocytes in place for longer could help them repair damaged blood flow

12 September 2019

Life-saving Seaweed

These bobbing blobs look a lot like something you might find floating in a cup of murky seawater. In fact, they’re tiny spheres of alginate gel – the main component of brown seaweed – speckled with a type of human white blood cell known as a monocyte, which could hold the key to a new way of treating severe peripheral artery disease. This condition causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the limbs, eventually cutting off the blood supply. In the worst cases, it can even lead to patients having their toes, feet or larger parts of their legs amputated. Injections of monocytes on their own can help to regrow and repair damaged blood vessels, but they don’t stay in the body for very long. Researchers are investigating whether encapsulating these cells helps them to stick around and do their job, restoring blood flow in damaged limbs and avoiding the need for amputation.

Written by Kat Arney

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