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Game-changing new procedure for babies with heart defects

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) – Nearly one in 100 babies are born with a heart defect each year in the United States.

Many of these babies will need surgery within weeks of birth, followed by more surgeries throughout their lives.

Now doctors are turning to stem cells to give big hope to little hearts.

“Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is a complex congenital heart disease,” said Dr. Sunjay Kaushal. “This is where the left ventricle fails to develop.”

These newborns rely solely on their right ventricles to pump blood throughout their bodies.

“These babies need surgery within the first few weeks of life,” Kaushal said.

Between 15% and 20% of these babies will not live to their first birthday. For the little ones who do, drugs and implanted devices can help, but ultimately those kids will need a heart transplant to survive.

“That right ventricle gets tired. It doesn’t pump blood efficiently,” Kaushal said.

Pediatric heart surgeons at Lurie Children’s Hospital inject stem cells directly into the heart to revitalize the worn-out right ventricle.

“We’re trying to see if we can actually put stem cells in there to reshape, to rejuvenate that right ventricle to pump blood more efficiently for that baby,” Kaushal said.

In the long term, stem cell therapy could potentially prevent these children from needing a heart transplant.

“I think these studies could be a game-changer for our babies,” Kaushal said.

After: Health Stories

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