Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center are investigating whether a stem cell treatment can improve outcomes for children born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, in which the left half of the heart is unable to pump blood.
The condition is often fatal if left untreated and typically requires three surgeries by the time the patient is 2 or 3 years old. Even with the surgeries, only 40 percent survive until age 5 without a heart transplant, according to The Baltimore Sun.
The newspaper personalized the trial by following 4-month-old Autumn, the fifth baby to receive stem cell injections as part of the study.
“Not to be superstitious, but we liked that she was No. 5,” Wayne Brown, Autumn’s father, told The Baltimore Sun. Both Brown and Autumn’s mother were born on the fifth day of the month.
Sunjay Kaushal, MD, the director of pediatric and adult congenital surgery at the University of Maryland, showed in computer models and animal studies that stem cells can boost the strength and longevity of hearts like Autumn’s.
Now, the researchers hope to prove it can allow humans with half of a functioning heart to live more normal lives.
“I think this is game-changing for these kids,” Kaushal said. “I believe these young hearts are going to be the most responsive.”
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