Surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center are engaged in a clinical study to determine if stem cell injections into the heart can provide improved long-term prospects for children born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. They recently brought the fifth child through the trial procedure, according to reporting by The Washington Post.
In the trial, doctors are follow the common surgical treatment path, performing the Norwood procedure shortly after birth, followed by the Glenn procedure when the patient is between 3 and 6 months of age, and finally the Fontan procedure once they’ve grown to be toddler. The stem cells are injected at the conclusion of the Glenn procedure.
Currently, researchers expect that around 70 percent of children born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome will reach adulthood with surgical treatment. The theory is stem cells will improve those odds, according to Joshua Hare, MD, FACC, FAHA, the founding director of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute.
“My ultimate hope is we can show we can reduce the need for transplants and kids do better, not just by increasing the functioning of their hearts but make them feel better and live longer,” Hare told the Post. “The goal is really to make kids better.”
Stem cell treatments have shown promise in adults suffering with cardiac ailments, but doctors believe the approach will be yet more beneficial for younger patients.
“I think this is game-changing for these kids,” Sunjay Kaushal, MD, the University of Maryland’s director of pediatric and adult congenital surgery, told the Post. “I believe these young hearts are going to be the most responsive.”
Kushal told the paper that the first four infants to receive the stem cell treatment are all doing well.