ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Heart disease can be caused by a narrowing of the arteries carrying blood to the heart. Patients with peripheral artery disease, or PAD, have arterial blockages in the legs. But what if the body had the ability to grow new vessels to improve blood flow? It could be medicine’s next big thing.

A recent finding by scientists could pave the way for a cutting-edge therapy for ischemic disease; a condition where blood flow is restricted.

Fangfei Li, MD, PhD, SBP at the Medical Discovery Institute said, “We are trying to develop a new treatment by making new blood vessels in the tissue.”

Imagine: instead of invasive and often complicated surgeries, doctors could use a technique to deliver a special protein to a patient’s body first, encouraging new vessels to sprout. Think of them growing like a tree.

Doctor Li continued, “At first, it grows as a stem, and then it becomes more branches. Then overall the tissues will be surrounded by branches.”

The challenge for researchers has been discovering how to encourage those sprouts to mature and hollow out, allowing blood to flow through without leaking. Vascular biologists Masanobu Komatsu and Fangfei Li say they’ve identified the protein that will allow the change to happen, seen here in 3D. Blood and oxygen could flow through to damaged areas.

Masanobu Komatsu, PhD, SBP at the Medical Discovery Institute said, “and if you can supply the fresh blood to the tissue then that definitely will save their life.”

Researchers say they envision the first treatments will target ischemic tissues in the legs and later the heart. Eventually this process might be used to treat eye diseases like macular degeneration caused by leaky blood vessels.