Cord Blood Stem Cells and Pediatric Congenital Heart Disease
Researchers continue to probe for new possibilities using cord blood stem cells (a top reason why families bank). With their instant availability and proven usefulness in helping treat a number of diseases today, cord blood stem cells have become a valuable medical resource for doctors. Recently, the Mayo Clinic announced a Phase 1 Clinical Trial that will look at the safety and feasibility of using a newborn’s own umbilical cord blood stem cells as a potential additional treatment for the management of hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). This marks the first stem cell clinical trial for pediatric congenital heart disease in the United States.
HLHS – A Challenging Road to Travel
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome has long been considered one of cardiology’s most challenging congenital heart defects. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention Center approximately 1000 babies (1 out of every 4,350) are born each year in the US with the condition.1 In HLHS newborns are born with severely underdeveloped structures on the left side of the heart. This results in the inability to pump oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body properly. Underdeveloped structures could include the:left ventricle, mitral valve, aortic valve, and an atrial septal defect.
For the past thirty years, the treatment approach has relied solely on technology in a series of three heart surgeries performed on the child over the first few years of life. Now, doctors at the Mayo Clinic will turn to the power of biology, cord blood stem cells, and the regenerative capabilities of the body to potentially play an added and beneficial role in treatment.
Hope for the Heart
Ten newborns with HLHS will participate in the trial. Following birth, their umbilical cord blood will be collected, processed and cryopreserved (all by the Mayo Clinic) until needed. During the baby’s second surgery — typically performed at 4 to 6 months of age — the stem cells from the cord blood will be injected into the heart muscle.
Dr. Harold Burkhart, a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon for Mayo Clinic Children’s Center, says the idea is to “See if the stem cells will increase the volume and strength of the heart muscle to give it greater durability and power to pump blood throughout the body. The hope is it would delay the need for a transplant or the onset of a decrease in function of the single ventricle.”
Advancements in Science. Growing potential.
As research continues to try to harness the healing power of cord blood stem cells in new ways, we continue to be encouraged and excited. Clearly time and more studies like this one will be required to determine if cord blood stem cells could be valuable in the treatment for management of HLHS. As the last 25 years have shown, discovery of new medical applications for cord blood stem cells comes from efforts such as this – all with the hope of providing a better tomorrow for today’s patient.
REFERENCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Congenital Heart Defects http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/heartdefects/hlhs.html Parker SE, Mai CT, Canfield MA, et al; for the National Birth Defects Prevention Network. Updated national birth prevalence estimates for selected birth defects in the United States, 2004-2006. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2010;88:1008-16.