Background: Preclinical findings suggest that intra-arterial gene transfer of a plasmid which encodes for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) can improve blood supply to the ischaemic limb. We have used the method in a patient.
Methods: Our patient was the eighth in a dose-ranging series. She was aged 71 with an ischaemic right leg. We administered 2,000 micrograms human plasmid phVEGF165 that was applied to the hydrogel polymer coating of an angioplasty balloon. By inflating the balloon, plasmid DNA was transferred to the distal popliteal artery.
Findings: Digital subtraction angiography 4 weeks after gene therapy showed an increase in collateral vessels at the knee, mid-tibial, and ankle levels, which persisted at a 12-week view. Intra-arterial doppler-flow studies showed increased resting and maximum flows (by 82% and 72%, respectively). Three spider angiomas developed on the right foot/ankle about a week after gene transfer; one lesion was excised and revealed proliferative endothelium, the other two regressed. The patient developed oedema in her right leg, which was treated successfully.
Interpretation: Administration of endothelial cell mitogens promotes angiogenesis in patients with limb ischaemia.