A study, led by an Indian-origin boffin, has revealed that heart stem cells from children with congenital heart disease were able to rebuild the damaged heart in the laboratory.
Sunjay Kaushal, surgeon in the Division of Cardiovascular Thoracic Surgery at Children's Memorial Hospital and assistant professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who headed the study, believes these results show great promise for the growing number of children with congenital heart problems.
With this potential therapy option these children may avoid the need for a heart transplant.
"This project has generated important pre-clinical laboratory data showing that we may be able to use the patient's own heart stem cells to rebuild their hearts, allowing these children to potentially live longer and have more productive lives," said Kaushal.
Cells were obtained from patients ranging in age from a few days after birth to 13 years who were undergoing routine congenital cardiac surgery. Findings show that the number of heart stem cells was greatest in neonates and then rapidly decreased with age, and that the highest numbers of these stem cells are located in the upper right chamber of the heart, or the right atrium.
The study also showed that the cardiac stem cells are functional and have the potential for use in repairing the damaged heart. Up until now, heart stem cell studies have addressed the adult diseased heart, but this is the first and largest systematic study to focus on children.
The study will be published in the Circulation.