World's first use of umbilical stem cells for treating Congenital cardiac disease

A British Heart Foundation Professor at the Bristol Heart Institute, England has claimed to save the life of a kid by performing the world’s first surgery using umbilical stem cells. Professor Massimo Caputo, who performed this surgery, is now working on fully developing this technology for children who are suffering from congenital cardiac disease. Children suffering from this disease will have a better chance at life with an improved quality of life if this technique proves to be useful for the majority of cases of congenital cardiac disease. The child who was treated using this technique is named Finley, who is now two years old and is enjoying his healthy life. 

Congenital cardiac disease is a serious condition that involves serious defects in the heart of a newborn baby. The condition is so common that according to the NHS, it affects one out of every hundred newborn babies in the UK. There are many reasons which lead to congenital cardiac diseases such as Down's syndrome, infections in mothers, certain medications, smoking and drinking during pregnancy, and many other genetic defects. These defects are noticeable during pregnancy months with the help of ultrasound scans which can show the presence of defective hearts, however, the accuracy of ultrasound for diagnosing the congenital cardiac disease is not ideal. Congenital cardiac disease typically includes heart defects such as septal defects, coarctation of the aorta, pulmonary valve stenosis, transposition of the great arteries, and an underdeveloped heart.

Finley, the kid treated under this surgery, had defects in the arteries present in his heart. Those arteries in his heart were present in the wrong way, causing him to have improper circulation. Within just four days of his birth, an open-heart surgery was performed on Finley to treat his condition, at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. But despite this surgery, the defect in Finley’s heart was not treated, which led to further worsening of his condition as the left side of his heart started to have a low supply of blood, thus of oxygen. His family stated that the doctors had said that his chances of surviving are low and that they were aware of this fact. After his first bypass surgery, the only thing keeping him alive was the heart and lung bypass machine, which maintains proper circulation in Finley’s body. Drugs were also needed to maintain Finley’s life. 

Amid such hopelessness, a new procedure suggested by Professor Massimo Caputo was tried on Finley which involved the use of umbilical stem cells. As a part of this procedure, the stem cells from the umbilical cord were directly injected into Finley’s heart. This process is based on the ability of umbilical stem cells to evolve into any cell type. Although generally these cells are taken from the mother, here the cells were allogeneic. Millions of allogeneic stem cells from the placenta were injected into Finley’s heart, which completely regenerated his heart into a healthy one, which did not have any defects. After confirming his recovery from the condition, the hospital discharged Finley who is now living a normal life. Because of such promising success, Professor Massimo Caputo has expressed his vision of seeing clinical trials related to this discovery to help other kids who are suffering from Congenital cardiac disease.