Banking for the Future of Congenital Heart Disease

Dr. Conrad L. Epting, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Amount Received: $45,100

Congenital heart disease remains the most common birth defect. Children born with only one pumping chamber (instead of two, called ventricles) face multiple surgeries and often develop heart failure as they age, contributing to a decreased quality of life and premature death. The heart contains stem cells whose unique role is to help build the heart during development; however, these cells quickly lose their ability to repair the heart after birth. Exciting new therapies are being studied using stem cells to help address heart failure. We envision a novel program at Lurie Children’s that will preserve several sources of stem cells from newborn infants with severe forms of congenital heart disease, including those cells that live in the heart. However, the ideal type of heart cells and the best freezing method for future use remain unknown. We hope to solve these problems by studying different methods to protect heart tissue during freezing, and by so doing, retain the viability of the many diverse cells that live in the heart. We envision that successful storage of heart tissue will facilitate participation in future clinical research using the patient’s own cells to reduce the need for heart transplantation and improve the quality of life for children struggling with heart failure on the basis of congenital heart disease.