Leg cuff procedure heals and keeps young

Brandenburg an der Havel, 5 July 2017

Forschern der MHB gelingt Nachweis, dass mit Hilfe einer speziell von ihnen entwickelten Therapie der Alterungsprozess von in Arterien zirkulierenden weißen Blutkörperchen beeinflusst werden kann.

MHB researchers find evidence that a specific therapy they developed may affect the ageing process of white blood cells circulating in arteries.

Prof. Dr. Ivo Buschmann, MHB professor of angiology and director of the university angiology clinic, and Dr. Philipp Hillmeister, head of the experimental angiology department, recently published a paper in the renowned journal Acta Physiologica, with Andreas Zietzer from the Berlin Charité and colleagues as co-authors. They found evidence that the Individual Shear Rate Therapy (ISRT) – an advanced form of their Herzhose® therapy (procedure based on leg cuffs for heart patients) – may influence the ageing process of circulating white blood cells with a rejuvenating effect on arteries.

Numerous studies suggest that sport and physical activity often are the best method to slow down vascular ageing and prevent cardiac disease. However, many patients suffering from peripheral arterial occlusive disease (PAOD) are no longer capable of sufficient and suitable exercise. To help these patients the two researchers designed a particular type of leg cuffs which stimulate blood flow in the legs via compressed and released air, like in real physical exercise but with no strain for the patient.

In a clinical study Prof. Buschmann and Dr. Hillmeister have now advanced the Herzhose® procedure and tested it on the basis of the Individual Shear Rate Therapy. What is special about ISRT, so the researchers, is that patients may now be treated with an adapted form of the Herzhose® and individual levels of compression to simulate the effects of physical exercise on arteries. ISRT was developed specifically for PAOD patients to relieve their complaints and improve their quality of life.

For the purposes of studies ISRT 1 and ISRT 2, the effects of the Herzhose® treatment on PAOD patients were examined and compared to those of physical training on healthy volunteers on a treadmill. “Since circulating white blood cells play a key role in arterial ageing such as atherosclerosis but also in arterial regeneration, they were in the focus of our attention in patients and test persons alike. In particular, we studied the enzyme telomerase which is decisive in regeneration and ageing of certain cells.”

Prof. Buschmann (2nd from left) and Dr. Hillmeister (1st from left) demonstrate the Herzhose® procedure.

US researchers who discovered the significance of telomerase in cell ageing were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2009. Prof. Buschmann: “They demonstrated that cell ageing is related to our DNA, i.e. the genetic material in body cells. Human DNA is distributed over chromosomes in all cell nuclei. So called telomeres are regions of repetitive DNA sequences at each end of a chromosome. Cells continue to divide throughout our lives; in this process, old cells die, new cells are generated, and our body keeps regenerating continuously. However, telomeres shrink with each replication until they are used up. As soon as telomeres are below a certain length cell division stops. The cell ages, and its regenerative powers decrease.” Dr. Hillmeister adds: “The enzyme telomerase discovered by Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider assumes an important function in this process since it can prevent a shortening of telomeres and thus theoretically induce a cell to go on dividing, regenerating and rejuvenating in a potentially endless sequence.”

“Activating the enzyme telomerase in white blood cells is therefore highly significant since these decide on health or illness of our arteries. If white blood cells tire then our arteries are going to get sick and old”, so the researchers.

Parting from this key insight, the team of the ISRT study examined blood samples from test persons specifically for the activation of the enzyme telomerase in circulating white blood cells. Telomerase activity of white blood cells was measured and compared prior to and after physical activity as well as before and after 5-week treatment with the ISRT Herzhose®. Buschmann and Hillmeister sum up: “In our study we found evidence that activation of the enzyme telomerase is much increased after 5-week treatment with the ISRT Herzhose®, which we interpret as indication that white blood cells are rejuvenated. We see the procedure as an interesting option to promote patients’ health, fitness and quality of life. To put it more succinctly: our leg cuff intervention heals and keeps young.”

Further studies are scheduled to confirm the positive effects of the procedure. A recent project of the two researchers is AngioAccel which the Federal Ministry of Education and Research sponsors with 1.7 million EUR. 160 PAOD patients are examined in the context of this project at the MHB to explore the regenerative powers of arteries.

Contact for members of the media: For further questions please contact Prof. Dr. Ivo Buschmann at (email) ivo.buschmann@mhb-fontane.de and (phone) +49 3381 41-1550.