Thursday, September 13, 2007

Baby stem cells may lead to valve breakthrough

Children’s Hospital doctors believe they’ve found a way to someday make living heart valves from a baby’s own stem cells, raising hopes that one day synthetic fixes could be replaced with natural ones that grow as a child grows.

Children who receive artificial heart valve replacements typically go under the knife several times throughout their lives as their hearts outgrow the man-made valves. A Children’s Hospital doctor says that doesn’t have to be the case.

Using tissue-engineering, Dr. Virna Sales and her team have created a working heart valve made from sheep stem cells, according to a study published today) in the journal Circulation.

Sales hopes someday to use a baby’s own stem cells to make a human heart valve in a lab and implant it to last forever - a leap that could be only five to 10 years away.

“That is the Holy Grail of cardiovascular tissue engineering,” said Sales, a researcher in the hospital’s department of cardiac surgery and the study’s first author.

About 28,000 children undergo open heart surgery each year, and eight of 1,000 babies are born with some form of heart defect, including a faulty heart valve.

When the valves, which provide one-way blood flow from the heart’s right ventricle into the pulmonary artery, are malformed in congenital heart disease, it puts extra burden on the heart.

A synthetic valve is a good fix, but only for awhile, Sales said.


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