These bobbing blobs look a lot like something you might find floating in a cup of murky seawater. In fact, they’re tiny spheres of alginate gel – the main component of brown seaweed – speckled with a type of human white blood cell known as a monocyte, which could hold the key to a new way of treating severe peripheral artery disease. This condition causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the limbs, eventually cutting off the blood supply. In the worst cases, it can even lead to patients having their toes, feet or larger parts of their legs amputated. Injections of monocytes on their own can help to regrow and repair damaged blood vessels, but they don’t stay in the body for very long. Researchers are investigating whether encapsulating these cells helps them to stick around and do their job, restoring blood flow in damaged limbs and avoiding the need for amputation.
Written by Kat Arney
- Image by Ashish Patel, Francesca Ludwinski, Suwan Jayasinghe and Bijan Modarai, Kings College London and University College London
- Image copyright held by the image creators
- Image shortlisted in the British Heart Foundation’s Reflections of Research Image Competition 2019