Can adult stem cell therapy work with the tiniest, most delicate, patients? Medical pioneers from University of Maryland Medical Center are currently researching if stem cell treatment would be effective to babies with congenital heart disease.
The clinical study aims to increases chances of survival of children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) using stem cells from bone marrows of adults. HSLS is a congenital condition where the left side of the heart is not fully developed during pregnancy, affecting the normal blood flow through the heart.
The current treatment methods include heart transplant and a series of open heart reconstructive surgical procedures. However, even with extensive surgeries, babies with HSLS do not have positive outcomes and suffer lifelong complications. Only 50 to 60 percent of HSLS patients treated with surgeries survive for up to five years.
According to University of Maryland Medical Center, 30 patients will be subjected to the HLHS open label trial. Fifteen patients will receive stem cell treatment which is composed of six-to-eight stem cell injections based on the heart size. The other half would be the control group and will not receive stem cells. The families will be given the knowledge if their babies will be receiving the stem cell treatment or not.
Previously researchers gained positive results on the use of stem cell treatments to adults with heart diseases. Sunjay Kaushal, lead researcher and director of pediatric cardiac surgery at University of Maryland Medical Center explained how the stem cell treatment might work.
"The premise of this clinical trial is to boost or regenerate the right ventricle, the only ventricle in these babies, to make it pump as strongly as a normal left ventricle," he said.
The researchers gained positive results on the first two patients which are both four-months-old. "We think the young heart is able to be more responsive," Kaushal told Associated Press. It will take several years to prove if the stem cell treatment would be effective on babies. Meanwhile, researchers are also studying the possibility of using stem cells in other congenital heart problems.