Stem Cell Research

Pediatric cardiac surgeon receives research award for investigating regenerative medicine in babies with heart conditions

Sunjay Kaushal, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric cardiac surgeon at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital, has been awarded funding by the Maryland Stem Cell Commission for his research characterizing regenerative cardiac stem cells in babies with congenital heart conditions. Dr. Kaushal’s research proposal was selected as one of 31 grant recipients out of 171 proposals.

Research performed at other institutions has demonstrated the regenerative properties of autologous adult cardiac stem cells in helping to repair damaged or weakened heart tissue. Dr. Kaushal focuses his research efforts on the regenerative properties of cardiac stem cells in babies with heart conditions and has shown that the stem cells of neonates have even greater regenerative properties than adult stem cells.

These findings have encouraged Dr. Kaushal to develop a protocol for a multi-step clinical research trial for babies with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Babies with HLHS have an underdeveloped left heart muscle, making it small and inefficient at pumping blood. Without surgical intervention, newborns will die within the first days of life.

The pending clinical trial will be the first of its kind in the U.S., first harvesting autologous cardiac stem cells from newborn babies diagnosed with HLHS, nurturing those cardiac stem cells to regenerate in a laboratory environment and then ultimately injecting the stem cells back into the baby’s own heart, all within the first year of life. The injection of these healthy regenerated cells, along with traditional surgical treatments necessary for babies with HLHS, should help compensate for the heart muscle that is under developed on the left side.

To make an appointment with the Children's Heart Program, please call 410-328-4FIT (4348) or 1-800-373-4111 (referring physicians only).