Objective: To investigate the effects of vascular endothelial growth factor gene therapy on ischemic neuropathy in patients with critical limb ischemia.
Design: An open-label, dose-escalating trial. Patients with angiographically proven critical leg ischemia received injections of phVEGF(165) human plasmid in the muscles of the ischemic limb. Testing before treatment and at 3 and 6 months included (1) symptom severity score, (2) clinical examination score, and (3) electrophysiologic studies. Clinical and electrophysiologic examiners were masked to each other's findings.
Setting: A tertiary care referral hospital and a major teaching affiliate of Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Mass.
Results: Of 29 consecutive patients enrolled, 17 (19 limbs) completed the 6 months of study. Six patients had diabetes. Compared with baseline studies, treated patients had significant clinical improvements in the symptom score (P<.01), sensory examination score (P<.01), total examination score (P =.01), peroneal motor amplitude (P =.03), and quantitative vibration threshold (P =.04). Improvement in the vascular ankle-brachial index in treated legs (P<.01) corresponded to improvement in neuropathy in the same limb. Neurologic improvement was seen in 4 of 6 patients with diabetes who completed the study. No clinical, electrophysiologic, or vascular improvements were observed in untreated legs.
Conclusions: Ischemic neuropathy might be a reversible condition, and therapeutic angiogenesis might be an effective treatment. The presence of diabetes does not preclude a response to this therapy.