Taking “Eat Your Greens” to Heart (or Limb?): New Algae-Based Treatment for Patients with Critical Limb Ischemia Reduces Need for Amputation

By Jacqueline Katz

Until now, surgical revascularization has been the cornerstone of critical limb ischemia (CLI) therapy, but Professor Bijan Modarai, M.D. and his team’s findings offer the promise of noninvasive treatment. CLI is a condition in which blood flow is restricted by plaque buildup. This generally hinders the transport of oxygen and nutrients to the extremities, which limits cell metabolism and can result in severe tissue damage and the need for amputation or, in more serious cases, death.

As surgical intervention is unsuccessful in approximately one-third of patients with CLI, researchers everywhere are looking for an alternative. After significant projects experimenting with cells to grow and repair arteries failed, this group of investigators at St Thomas' Hospital and King's College London found that macrophages, a type of white blood cell from brown algae, stimulated the formation of new blood vessels in the afflicted region of subjects with CLI. In mice, this algae-containing capsule has been successful in reestablishing the circulation of oxygen and other life-supporting compounds, although human clinical trials are not yet underway.

While we expect this new treatment will greatly reduce the CLI burden, we must also explore potential interventions to address the underlying causes of the condition. CLI is heavily associated with poor health indicators, such smoking and obesity. To make a more significant impact on the disease burden, we must also look toward prevention.


British Heart Foundation. (2019, March 20). Algae could prevent limb amputation: Researchers develop new algae-based treatment which could reduce the need of leg amputation in people with severely limited blood flow. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190320101943.htm