In A First, Baby’s Life ‘Probably Saved’ By Umbilical Stem Cells

Credits: Drew Hays/Unsplash

In what may be the first of its kind research, a heart surgeon says that he might have saved the life of a baby using stem cells from the placenta to repair a heart condition, reports BBC.

The procedure took place in the United Kingdom where a now two-year-old boy Finley was treated using the “allogenic” cells, grown by scientists at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

Surgeon ‘probably’ saves life

The heart surgeon and researcher, Professor Massimo Caputo from the Bristol Heart Institute, said that he “probably saved the life” of the baby by using stem cells “scaffolding” to correct the boy’s heart defect, reported BBC. In an interview with the British Heart Foundation, Caputo said that one of his research priorities was using this method to avoid repeated operations for babies and children suffering from congenital heart disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most common type of birth defect. Present since birth CHD affects the structure of a child’s heart and its functions including the blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. It ranges from “mild (such as a small hole in the heart) to severe (such as missing or poorly formed parts of the heart),” said the CDC.

Every time you do heart surgery on the same person it gets riskier. Even though we are now getting good outcomes in terms of survival, there is still the risk of complications – infections, damage to the brain or lungs – that can affect quality of lifelong term. And there is the psychological toll of repeated surgery, too,” said the heart surgeon explaining the long-term risks of surgeries.

According to the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children website, Finley was four days old when he had his first heart surgery after the hospital found that he had the heart condition, “which meant that the two main blood vessels leaving his heart were in the wrong order. The left side of Finley’s heart was also missing coronary arteries which supply blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the heart,” said his mother Melissa.

A 12-hour surgery

Subsequently, a 12-hour surgery was conducted but the boy still needed a heart and lung bypass machine to aid his deteriorating heart function and was placed in an ICU for weeks, she added. Therefore, when all conventional means failed Professor Caputo suggested the stem cell method, in line with which had injected millions of “allogenic” cells directly into Finley’s heart hoping it would help blood vessels grow.

We are trying to create living tissue, whether it’s a valve or a blood vessel or a patch, which will grow with the child, and that does not deteriorate. I think that would massively change their quality of life,” he previously said in an interview with BHF.

While allogenic stem transplant uses cells collected from a donor, they are matched with the patient to suppress the disease and restore the patient’s immune system as well as could grow into tissue. Subsequently, it was not rejected in Finley’s case and worked to regenerate the damaged heart muscle.

On the other hand, artificial tissue is typically used to repair cardiac abnormalities in babies, but it does not grow with the heart and as the child grows up, they would require additional operations.

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Source: BBC