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Stem cell therapy brings hope to babies with heart defects

(WNDU) – Nearly one in 100 babies is 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.

Congenital heart disease can have a number of symptoms, especially in babies and children, including rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, swelling in the legs, stomach or around the eyes, extreme tiredness and tiredness, bluish tinge to the skin or lips or fatigue and rapid breathing when a baby suckles.

These problems are sometimes noticeable soon after birth, although mild deformities may not cause problems until later in life.

Now doctors are turning to stem cells to bring hope to little hearts.

“Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is a complex congenital heart condition,” said Sunjay Kaushal, chief of pediatric cardiac surgery at Lurie Children’s Hospital. “This is where the left ventricle fails to develop.”

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

“These babies need surgery in the first weeks of life,” Dr. Kaushal explained.

15-20% of these babies will not live to see 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 is getting tired. It does not pump blood efficiently,” Dr. 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,” Dr. Kaushal said.

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

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

The repair of congenital heart defects in children and adults has been transformed over the past decade by advances in cardiac catheterization.

A minimally invasive approach to diagnosing and treating these abnormalities is associated with fewer risks and easier recovery for patients of all ages.

Catheter interventions are now considered the standard of care in the treatment of neonates, children, and adults with various types of congenital heart disease (CHD).

Researchers are actively involved in the development of biodegradable stents that dissolve as the child grows and in the design of new closure devices for premature babies with PDAs using nanosynthesized smart materials such as titanium coated nitinol thin.

In addition, UCLA participates in studies of single-use devices to support patients with a single ventricle.

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