Critical limb ischemia portends a risk of major amputation of 25% to 35% within 1 year of diagnosis. Preclinical studies provide evidence that intramuscular injection of autologous CD34+ cells improves limb perfusion and reduces amputation risk. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study, we evaluated the safety and efficacy of intramuscular injections of autologous CD34+ cells in subjects with moderate or high-risk critical limb ischemia, who were poor or noncandidates for surgical or percutaneous revascularization (ACT34-CLI).

Methods and Results:
Twenty-eight critical limb ischemia subjects were randomized and treated: 7 to 1×105 (low-dose) and 9 to 1×106 (high-dose) autologous CD34+ cells/kg; and 12 to placebo (control). Intramuscular injections were distributed into 8 sites within the ischemic lower extremity. At 6 months post injection, 67% of control subjects experienced a major or minor amputation versus 43% of low-dose and 22% of high-dose cell-treated subjects (P=0.137). This trend continued at 12 months, with 75% of control subjects experiencing any amputation versus 43% of low-dose and 22% of high-dose cell-treated subjects (P=0.058). Amputation incidence was lower in the combined cell-treated groups compared with control group (6 months: P=0.125; 12 months: P=0.054), with the low-dose and high-dose groups individually showing trends toward improved amputation-free survival at 6 months and 12 months. No adverse safety signal was associated with cell administration.

This study provides evidence that intramuscular administration of autologous CD34+ cells was safe in this patient population. Favorable trends toward reduced amputation rates in cell-treated versus control subjects were observed. These findings warrant further exploration in later-phase clinical trials.