PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s potential stem cell breakthrough that’s helping the hearts of babies born with a life-threatening condition.
“You breathe a sigh of relief when you hear her breathe.”
Eva Weiler was 20 weeks into her pregnancy when doctors diagnosed her unborn daughter with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, commonly called HLHS.
“She has half a heart; her left ventricle really doesn’t exist,” Weiler said. “The diagnosis is devastating and you look for anything that’s gonna give you hope.”
Children with HLHS typically undergo three surgeries that allow the developed side of their heart to pump blood to the entire body.
But by early adulthood, the heart starts to fail.
Doctors are trying something new, collecting the baby’s cord blood at birth to gather stem cells.
When the child undergoes their second HLHS surgery, Dr. Ram Kumar Subramanyanm, of Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, said, “We’re going to inject stem cells into the right ventricle.”
Doctors believe injecting the stem cells directly into the heart will help stimulate muscle growth, making it stronger.
“And the hope is that this will delay or even prevent heart failure in this subset of patients,” Dr. Subramanyan said.
Researchers say, so far, they’re seeing positive results in children who received the injections as part of a clinical trial.
Weiler is hopeful it will make a difference.
“I wanna give her every possible chance that I can,” she said.