HOUSTON -- (Feb. 6, 2012) -- Researchers at Rice University and Texas Children's Hospital have turned stem cells from amniotic fluid into cells that form blood vessels. Their success offers hope that such stem cells may be used to grow tissue patches to repair infant hearts.
"We want to come up with technology to replace defective tissue with beating heart tissue made from stem cells sloughed off by the infant into the amniotic fluid," said Rice bioengineer Jeffrey Jacot, who led the study. "Our findings serve as proof of principle that stem cells from amniotic fluid have the potential to be used for such purposes."
The results were published online by the journal Tissue Engineering Part A. The research was conducted at Texas Children's Hospital.
According to the American Heart Association, about 32,000 infants a year in the United States are born with congenital heart defects, 10,000 of which either result in death or require some sort of surgical intervention before they're a year old.
Jacot, an assistant professor of bioengineering based at Rice's BioScience Research Collaborative and director of the Pediatric Cardiac Bioengineering Laboratory at the Congenital Heart Surgery Service at Texas Children's Hospital, hopes to grow heart patches from the amniotic stem cells of a fetus diagnosed in the womb with a congenital heart defect. Because the cells would be a genetic match, there would be no risk of rejection, he said.
"Between 60 and 80 percent of severe heart defects are caught by ultrasound," he said. "Ultimately, when a heart defect is diagnosed in utero, we will extract amniotic cells. By birth, we will have made tissue for the repair out of the infant's own cells. The timing is critical because the surgery needs to be done within weeks of the infant's birth."
Surgeons currently use such nonbiological materials as Dacron or Teflon, which do not contract or grow with the patient, or native
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