Stem Cells to Patch Broken Hearts of Young

Baby with congenital heart defectNewborn with a congenital heart defect

A new study will be going underway at the Bristol Heart Institute at the University of Bristol, England, using graft tissue derived from umbilical cord and placental stem cells to mend congenital heart defects. Similar grafts have been tested in animal models.

“We believe stem cells from the umbilical cord, usually discarded after birth, could hold the key to a new generation of graft,” said Professor of Congenital Heart Surgery Massimo Captuo. "These grafts grow at the same rate as the children they’re used to treat and reduce the risk of rejection after transplant as they contain the child’s own DNA.”

With these new grafts, the tissue would continue to grow with the child, saving him or her from ongoing surgeries to replace the artificial implant as the heart continues to grow. This research follows some similar, although still isolated, attempts to use stem cells to mend a broken heart.

Congenital is something present at birth, so congenital heart disease is often a hole, leaky valve or other defect that forms in the womb. It occurs in approximately eight out of every 1,000 births in the U.S., requiring approximately 10,000 newborns to undergo surgery or some other medical intervention each year.