Currently, surgeons can perform open-heart surgery on many of these babies to temporarily correct the condition, but the materials used for the patches or new heart valves are not biological and cannot grow with the baby. This means they can be rejected by the patient’s immune system, causing the surgical materials to gradually deteriorate and fail over months or years.

As a result, a child may have to undergo the same heart surgery multiple times during childhood, which can keep them in the hospital for weeks, negatively affect their quality of life, and cause a lot of stress for the family.


A new stem cell therapy to treat heart valve defects

Professor Massimo Caputo of the BHF has developed the first stem cell patch to repair defects in a valve in a large blood vessel that controls blood flow from the heart to the lungs, as well as holes between the heart’s two main pumping chambers.

During the operation, stem cell plasters are sewn to the part of the child’s heart that needs to be repaired. The stem cells can then help regenerate heart tissue without it being rejected by the child’s body.

The BHF has awarded Professor Caputo more than £750,000 to test these patches in patients, so that clinical trials can begin over the next two years and more babies and toddlers can benefit from the life-changing technology. The materials have already been proven safe in animal tests.

The team is also in the early stages of developing other stem cell technologies that could one day correct more severe congenital heart problems using 3D bioprinting and gene therapy.

Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation Dr. Sonya Babu-Narayan, “If successful, this new stem cell therapy, which acts like a healing plaster, could transform heart surgery outcomes for children and adults with congenital heart disease. It could offer a solution to fix their hearts once and for all in a single operation, preventing people from facing a future of repeat surgery and giving them the gift of a happier and healthier life.”

Source: Medium

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