07 Oct Varicose Veins May Be Treated With Stem Cells
Varicose veins are generally more of a cosmetic concern than a serious health condition, but they can cause painful symptoms. The traditional treatment is laser therapy. But researchers have discovered a new way of using cardiac stem cells to create a pump in veins that have stopped flowing to return the blood to the heart and clear them.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins. Any superficial vein may become varicosed, but the veins most commonly affected are those in your legs. That’s because standing and walking upright increases the pressure in the veins of your lower body. For many people, varicose veins and spider veins, which is a common, mild variation of varicose veins, are simply a cosmetic concern. For other people, varicose veins can cause aching pain and discomfort. Sometimes varicose veins lead to more serious problems. Treatment may involve self-care measures or procedures by your doctor to close or remove veins. Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they’re smaller. Spider veins are found closer to the skin’s surface and are often red or blue. Spider veins occur on the legs, but can also be found on the face. They vary in size and often look like a spider’s web.
Weak or damaged valves can lead to varicose veins. Arteries carry blood from your heart to the rest of your tissues, and veins return blood from the rest of your body to your heart, so the blood can be re-circulated and re-oxygenated. To return blood to your heart, the veins in your legs must work against gravity. Muscle contractions in your lower legs act as pumps, and elastic vein walls help blood return to your heart. Tiny valves in your veins open as blood flows toward your heart then close to stop blood from flowing backward. If these valves are weak or damaged, blood can flow backward and pool in the vein, causing the veins to stretch or twist. The risk of varicose veins increases with age. Aging causes wear and tear on the valves in your veins that help regulate blood flow. Eventually, that wear causes the valves to allow some blood to flow back into your veins where it collects instead of flowing up to your heart. Women are more likely to develop the condition. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, pre-menstruation, or menopause may be a factor because female hormones tend to relax vein walls. Hormone treatments, such as birth control pills, may increase your risk of varicose veins.
How Can Stem Cells Treat My Varicose Veins?
Researchers at George Washington University have used stem cells to make a new organ that helps return blood from defective veins back to the heart. This mini-organ consists of heart muscle cells that surround the vein and act as a miniature heart that pulsates that aids blood flow through venous segments. This mini-cuff is made from the patient’s own adult stem cells, which eliminate the possibility of the body rejecting them.