Stem Cells From Placenta Save Child With Congenital Heart Disease

A child from the United Kingdom was saved by new stem cell technology. The use of stem cells from the placentas has been approved by the FDA in the United States, but fears of fake products do exist in strong numbers.

Key takeaways:
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    English child with congenital cardiac disease saved by stem cells derived from the placenta.
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    Stem cells derived from the placenta are effective, and currently FDA-approved in the U.S. under certain circumstances.
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    Beware of falsely advertised stem cell methods in the U.S., as fraudulent operators continue to operate in high numbers.

A heart surgeon in the U.K. saved a little boy through stem cells derived from the placenta. The child named Finley was born with a congenital cardiac disease (CCD) and had been through numerous medical procedures since birth.

Professor Massimo Caputo at the Bristol Heart Institute was the one responsible for the operation. Finley had his first open-heart surgery at four days old, but the procedure was unable to solve his issue — resulting in a lack of blood flow to the left side of the heart leading to many health issues.

Cells were derived from a placenta bank and injected straight into Finley’s heart to potentially repair damaged blood vessels. The stem cells (allogenic cells) used in the procedure were grown by scientists at the Royal Free Hospital in London. Prof. Caputo is optimistic that this breakthrough will help children born with CCD to no longer require multiple-surgery scenarios.

According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the United States, affecting around 40,000 births per year.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are cells with the ability to transform into different types of cells in the body, including blood, the brain, bones, and all remaining bodily organs — serving as a repair system. The two most common forms of stem cells include embryonic and adult stem cells.

Medical professionals believe stem cells can help lead to breakthrough treatments for birth defects and cancer. In a perfect world, stem cells could be used to create new cells and tissues for serious diseases such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injury, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

The CDC lists potential side effects when using stem cells for unproven treatments:

  • Failure of the cells to work as expected.
  • Growth of tumors.
  • Infections.
  • Potential for contamination of the product.
  • The ability of cells to move from placement sites and multiply or change into inappropriate cell types.
  • Injection site reaction.

Stem cells derived from the placenta

The placenta develops inside the uterus during pregnancy, providing vital nutrients and oxygen to the child in the womb. It contains high amounts of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which give rise to all the blood cell types, and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which can change the type of cell.

In most cases the placenta is discarded as medical waste following birth, making it available in large qualities — leading to its candidacy for stem cell research. Currently, the only FDA-approved stem cell products are made of blood-forming stem cells, such as the ones used in the U.K.

Therapies approved in the U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against stem cell therapies not yet approved, a list of approved products is available here. Some advertised treatments may be false, so it is important to know if the procedure is approved. Patients seeking cures for certain diseases may be lured by claims. Stem cell products are only used to treat certain cancers along with various blood and immune disorders.

In 2019, the FDA sent multiple warnings to different stem cell therapy producers for offering unapproved stem cell products to patients. One of the companies, Liveyon Labs, used products derived from human umbilical cord blood for patients unrelated to donors — not an FDA-approved method. Occasionally called a MUD (matched unrelated donor) transplant, these procedures include more risk versus a relative who fits the bill.

A California study from March 2021 found nearly 1,500 U.S. businesses operating clinics promoting stem cell treatments for various treatments. It is a 400% increase from 2016, this is occurring despite the FDA cracking down on non-approved stem cell treatment.

The three states with the largest amount of these forms of clinics are California, Florida, and Texas. These clinics promote their stem cell products for most orthopedic conditions and sports-related injuries. Other claims include therapy for neurological diseases, immunological conditions, respiratory conditions, and many more. As mentioned earlier, unapproved FDA treatments can be severely harmful, be sure to research to see if the stem cell procedure you are seeking is safe.

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