New ECU research to help avoid limb loss for vascular disease patients

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) –  Doctor Joseph McClung is part of a group within the ECU Brody School of Medicine investigating how genetics play a role in limb loss due to vascular disease.

“The prevalence here is high and unfortunately it is a problem with very few quality options for treatment,” said McClung. “It’s a disease of the narrowing of the arteries in the lower limbs. Patients with the worst case of the disease often have gangrene infection and tissue loss and there are very few quality options for treatment.”

McClung said there are about 20 million people in the United States with peripheral artery disease that could cost the health care system 400 billion dollars. Not to mention the affect it has on the east.

“In eastern north Carolina, North Carolina in general, there are high incidences of diabetes and high rates of smoking. All of which these two are very strong risk factors and predictors for the development of this critical ischemia the worst case of the disease,” added McClung.

Grad student and research assistant Cameron Schmidt works in the labs every day. He said this could be the future for treating the disease and possibly others like it.

“With these kinds of gene therapy we are cutting out that middle man and we are going right for the biological process, he said.

“The really fascinating thing about this research is this is kind of the next step beyond drug therapies. Right now the drug therapies that are out there if there is a drug issue are that they mimic biological processes often with off target effects,” added Schmidt.

McClung said there are about 150,000 amputations related to the disease in the U.S. annually.

Doctor Dean Yamaguchi as well as other university medical centers are helping with the research.

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