Still, the research is a long way from clinical practice.
"I don't think anyone has any idea if [these valves] would grow," Luepker said. "One may not know until it is put into a child, and the child grows. There are obviously a lot of hurdles to overcome."
Malfunctioning heart valves in babies that can't be surgically repaired are replaced with valves made from animal tissue, other human tissue or man-made materials.
Because these valves don't grow with the child, more surgeries for new valves are often needed.
There is also a possibility that the child's body will reject the artificial valve, although this is not so common, Luepker said.
A bigger issue is the sheer work that a heart valve has to perform. "The stresses on a heart valve are enormous," Luepker said. "They have to hold the blood back with each beat. The wear and tear on them which we see with metal and plastic valves is an issue, and those are fairly hard substances."
Cincinnati Children's Hospital has more on pediatric heart problems.
SOURCES: Ralf Sodian, M.D., cardiac surgeon, University Hospital of Munich, Germany; Russell V. Luepker, M.D., American Heart Association spokesman and Mayo professor, public health, department of epidemiology and community health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Nov. 10, 2008, presentation, American Heart Association's annual scientific sessions, New Orleans
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