World-first operation using placenta stem cells saves baby with heart defect

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The world’s first operation to inject donor stem cells into a baby’s failing heart has proven successful and has opened the door to stem cell plasters for children. 

In 2020, surgeons injected umbilical cord stem cells into a baby named Finley, from Corsham in Wiltshire, after operations to reposition the two main arteries in his heart failed.

Two years on, Finley is a healthy toddler, and researchers have refined the technique to create stem cell plasters which could be sewn over holes in the heart, or defects in blood vessels and valves.

It would mean that children living with congenital heart disease do not need so many open-heart operations.

Around 13 babies are diagnosed with a congenital heart condition every day in Britain, but current patches or replacement heart valves are not completely biological and cannot grow with the baby, so need replacing as the child gets older. 

Researchers are hopeful that the stem cell patches will adapt and grow with the child’s heart and are hoping to begin clinical trials in the next two years. 

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