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Stem cells from newborn show promise for heart repair in children

by | Sep 19, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Dr. David Prentice

A new study from University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers concludes that stem cells from newborn babies appear to have a three-fold greater ability than adult stem cells to restore heart function. The study, aimed at finding therapies to treat the approximately 1 in 100 American children born with congenital heart disease, was published in the September 11 issue of Circulation.

“The surprising finding is that the cells from neonates are extremely regenerative and perform better than adult stem cells,” the study’s senor author Dr. Sunjay Kaushal, associate professor of surgery at Maryland and director of pediatric cardiac surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “We are extremely excited and hopeful that this new cell-based therapy can play an important role in the treatment of children with congenital heart disease, many of whom don’t have other options.”

According to the Baltimore Sun, “Researchers took heart tissue during cardiac surgery from 43 neonates and 13 adults and expanded the cells in growth medium.” Meredith Cohn added, “Kaushal said it wasn’t clear why the newborn cells worked better, but the doctor said it maybe because there are many more stem cells in a baby’s heart than an adult’s or they have more growth factors to trigger blood vessel development and preservation.”

But the results were not a surprise to Dr. David Prentice, an expert on stem cells.

”While this is the first time anyone has looked for stem cells in the hearts of someone so young, but it’s not surprising that they found heart adult stem cells in these newborns,” he told NRL News Today. “It is likely that all of our tissues even at birth have some adult stem cells present, primarily as sentinels for repair of any future damage.”

Prentice agreed, “Doctors are right to be excited about the prospect of using these little patients’ own adult stem cells to repair their heart problems soon after birth.” He cited the work of Drs. Eduardo and Linda

Marban, pro-life doctors at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who have already shown that the technique works with adults. Along with their team they grew heart stem cells from adult heart patients, then injected the adult stem cells back into the patients’ damaged heats. 

The results—decreased scarring and improved heart function.  Other doctors have used the patient’s own bone marrow adult stem cells for effective repair of heart damage, e.g., in a recent study at the University of Miami. (See one patient’s story at http://www.stemcellresearchfacts.org/barry-brown-heart-disease .)

“These infants’ heart adult stem cells should be able to accomplish similar feats of regeneration if properly applied,” Prentice said. “Adult stem cells continue to show the real promise, both now and into the future, for patient therapies.”

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Categories: Neonate Stem Cells