Dr. Shaun Kunisaki, a pediatric surgeon and assistant professor of surgery at the University of Michigan, and his surgical team presented the results of their development of a method to convert amniotic stem cells into heart cells for use in repairing congenital heart defects at the Oct. 9, 2013, session of the Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons.
The researchers have overcome the ethical complaint of using embryonic stem cells to save children’s lives, the difficulty in extracting stem cells from the bone marrow of infants, and the rarity of heart stem cells by developing a process that uses amniotic stem cells to produce specific heart muscles.
The advantage of amniotic stem cells is the ready availability from birth and the absolute zero chance of rejection because the amniotic stem cells are the child’s cells.
The researchers worked for three years to develop a process that extracts mesenchymal stromal cells (the most common type of amniotic stem cell), converts these cells into pluripotent stem cells, and then converts the pluripotent stem cells into specific heart cells that address a specific congenital heart defect.
About 40,000 children are born every year with a congenital heart defect. The new stem cell process can address the cure of these defects immediately instead of using the present lengthy and expensive process of repeated heart operations on infants.