Artificial heart valves are the only option for children with certain kinds of heart defects that disrupt the functioning of the pulmonary heart valve. But surgery can cause infections, and the valves need to be replaced as children grow, because the valves don't automatically become larger.
In a new study Dr. John Mayer and researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and elsewhere reported that they were able to use tissue engineering techniques to add animal cells to a kind of cellular scaffold and create tissue like that in pulmonary heart valves. Tissue-engineered heart valves that grow as a patient grows could eliminate the need for repeat operations among child patients.
McGowan Institute’s Director Dr. Alan Russell called the experiments exciting — and one of the most complicated developments to date.
"The concept is incredibly important," Russell said. "Dr. Mayer has been working on this for many, many years." Russell said new work involving valves is moving the field forward.
"This kind of work is very important and also very difficult because the valves have to be perfect," he said. By perfect, Russell means the valve has to function the moment it is secured in the heart.
Dr. John Mayer said the valves should be available for clinical trials within the next three years.
"These are stem cells derived from the bone marrow," Mayer said. "They are not embryonic stem cells."
National Association of Children’s Hospitals (09/14/07)
Monterey Herald (09/15/07)
Contra Costa Times (09/15/07)
Deseret News (09/16/07)