Army Veteran Kim Vanderloo said he feels much better after vascular surgery restored blood flow to his legs. He was recently at the Nebraska Biomechanics Core Facility at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to get a measurement of that difference.
Vanderloo is a patient in Dr. Iraklis Pipinos’ study – “Mitochondrial Dysfunction, Oxidative Damage and Inflammation in Claudication.” Claudication is the most common clinical presentation of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which afflicts 5 percent of the U.S. population more than 55 years of age. PAD is a chronic condition that decreases blood supply to the legs, producing significant damage to the muscle. Patients with PAD limp and can only walk very short distances because the muscles in their legs are damaged and their legs hurt.
The major focus of the laboratory of Pipinos and his close collaborator Dr. George Casale is the development of regenerative medicine strategies for skeletal muscle tissue in the legs of patients suffering from PAD. Their National Institute of Health-funded research involves the combined efforts of biomechanists, life scientists, biomedical engineers, physicians, veterinarians and technical support staff.
Their work evaluates the mechanisms that produce the leg dysfunction of claudication, Pipinos said. Its successful completion can ultimately improve patient prognosis and produce significant new diagnostic and treatment strategies for the care of claudicating patients.
"It is our sincere hope that our research will eventually make a contribution to the health of patients like Mr. Vanderloo. That would really make all of us very happy," said Pipinos.
The latest research protocol by Pipinos and Casale started enrolling Veterans at VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System in 2011.
When patients are enrolled in the study, they are placed in one of three groups dependent on their course of treatment. All Veterans enrolled in the study participate in an evaluation of their leg muscle, using a needle biopsy, a test in the vascular lab, blood work and a walking test at the UNO biomechanics facility.
After the baseline measurements are taken, they either receive no intervention, vascular surgery or a supervised exercise program, which they complete at the Creighton Cardiac Rehab Center.
If they receive an intervention (including a vascular operation or exercise therapy), like Vanderloo, the Veterans then retake all the tests after six months to assess whether they have experienced a significant improvement in their leg muscle and its function.
The biggest reason Veterans volunteer for clinical research is to help other Veterans, said Holly DeSpiegelaere, RN, clinical research nurse coordinator for the study.
“They’re not even thinking they’re going to have any immediate result for themselves. That’s not their main focus. They just want to help another Veteran,” DeSpiegelaere said.
“This unselfishness is typical for our Veterans” Pipinos said. “After all, they volunteered to go to war to protect us. And, after they finished their duty in the armed services, they continue to enjoy serving all of us by participating in research like ours."