Stem cell treatment for congenital heart defects

Stem cell treatment for congenital heart defects

Congenital heart defects include intrauterine structural abnormalities of the heart, its valves or its vessels. Most often, defects of the interventricular septum develop, which account for about 40% of all cases, less often there is a lesion of the interatrial septum (approximately 15%), the remaining variants are the tetrad / pentad of Fallot, patent ductus arteriosus, transposition of great vessels, hypoplasia (underdevelopment) of the left and the right heart, as well as stenosis of the pulmonary trunk. All of them have their own characteristic symptoms and signs, revealed during the instrumental examination, which allows to confirm the diagnosis.

The increased interest in this problem is explained by the fact that this group of diseases is still one of the main causes of infant mortality in the first year of life. For many years, the main and, in fact, the only way to eliminate congenital heart defects has been surgical intervention. However, due to the fact that it is associated with the risk of developing various serious complications and sometimes requires very complex reconstructive steps, and sometimes, for certain reasons, it may not be feasible at all, the development of other more gentle, but at the same time no less effective approaches.

Particular hopes are pinned on the method of treating congenital heart defects using cord blood stem cells, which, due to their ability to differentiate into various cell pools and simulate angiogenesis, are promising material for restorative therapy not only for this pathology, but also for many other somatic diseases.

The umbilical cord blood of a healthy newborn baby contains approximately 3% of stem cells, while in a baby with a heart defect, this figure rises to 5%. It is these cells that are used for cell therapy. Today it is a good addition to the surgical treatment of heart defects, which is especially necessary in severe cases. Stem cells are introduced directly in the process of performing surgery on the heart, thereby potentiating its effect. Immature cells, having got to the place of application of their action, differentiate in the desired direction and contribute to the acceleration of regeneration processes.

One of the problems arising during the implementation of such treatment with the use of umbilical cord blood is intrauterine infection of the fetus, and mainly with the TORCH group, which often leads to the formation of congenital anomalies. This limits the possibility of using cord blood for the preparation of biomaterials. However, if it is suitable for carrying out cell therapy, you can not only use it immediately, but also place it for long-term storage in a cryobank. Stem cells frozen in this way retain their activity and can be used to treat patients for tens of years, which opens up fundamentally new horizons for modern medicine.

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