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Umbilical Cord Blood Could Help To Build New Heart Valves

Babies born with heart defects may one day be able to receive perfectly matched new heart valves built using stem cells from their umbilical cord blood. When these children are born with malfunctioning heart valves that cannot be surgically repaired, they rely on replacements from animal tissue, compatible human organ donations or artificial materials. These replacements can save the baby’s life, but they will not grow and change shape to accommodate the baby’s physical development, involving the need for more surgeries to replace outgrown valves. The animal tissue can also harden over time as well and much weaker than a normal human valve. With the use of these artificial valves, the children also must be treated with blood thinners.

Ralf Sodian, M.D., lead author of a study which is researching the use of cord blood to develop heart valves, and a cardiac surgeon at the University Hospital of Munich, said in a statement:

“In our concept, if prenatal testing shows a heart defect, you could collect blood from the umbilical cord at birth, harvest the stem cells, and fabricate a heart valve that is ready when the baby needs it”

In the study, the scientists used stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood. The cord blood was cryo- frozen to preserve it, then, after twelve weeks, the cells were seeded onto eight heart valve scaffolds made of a biodegradable material and then grown in a lab.

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