The Wall Street Journal shared a fascinating story this week that highlights the amazing work by some of our nation’s leading medical experts to help children who are born with various defects or birth injuries. The article shared the story of one girl, now four years old, who was born with only one pumping chamber in her heart. This defect is a very serious one that can prove fatal for the child. The condition, known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, makes it difficult for children to pump sufficient levels of oxygen throughout their body. This can have serious effects on development and saps energy quickly. Without surgery the fatality rate for these children is 70% within the first year.
However medical experts from Yale University have began a unique, experimental procedure in an effort to save the girl’s life. Specifically, the doctors implanted a bioabsorbable tube in her chest that dissolves over time. This tube was seeded with various cells-including stem cells-that had been taken from the girl’s own body (her bone marrow).
So what has the tube done?
Amazingly, the cells that were on the tube (which has already dissolved) are working to grow a new blood vessel in the girl’s body. The goal is to induce regeneration, using the body’s own cells to naturally heal itself. The girl in this case used to have little stamina. However, since the surgery and tube implantation she has the energy of any other four-year old. The family’s doctors believe that she will be able to begin school next year right on time.
The girl’s doctor explains that this case “is a real milestone and broadly important for the field of tissue engineering.” The achievement was a long time coming. The girl’s doctor engaged in four years of laboratory research before even beginning the FDA approval process to test on patients. Then, it took another four years and thousands of pages of data before being given the official green light to try to surgery on a patient. The process is still experimental, however, so it is not available to the public at large.
Regenerative medicine is an exciting new area in medical that mimics self-healing mechanisms in the animal kingdom. Salamanders and starfish have long been able to re-grow lost or injured body parts. New explorations into stem cell research are slowly allowing scientists and medical researchers to harness the regenerative power of the body. What was once thought only to be possible in the womb (growth) now may be harnesses later in life.
Observers report than the potential of stem-cell developments is fueling research at many academic laboratories. Many scientists are working to figure out the most effective ways of harnessing potential regenerative power to heal damage from heart attacks, spinal cord injuries, kidney problems, and much more.
Our Illinois birth injury lawyers remain astounded by the amazing work of cutting edge medical teams that are producing regenerative medicine options. Hopefully one day these techniques will branch out far enough that many different types of birth injuries and defects, from brachial plexus injuries to cerebral palsy may be able to be fully or partial cured. All research efforts into these areas should be fully supported.
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