Medical and Regenerative Solutions for Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia: A Perinatal Perspective

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In the EU-27, 2,100 babies with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) are born annually. CDH is fatal in 30% of them. Experimental fetal surgery in severe cases results in a survival rate of 50 to 60% at its best. Failure is due to insufficient lung growth, persistent pulmonary hypertension or prematurity induced by the procedure. For nonsurvivors alternative strategies are required. Survivors undergo anatomical repair, but large diaphragmatic defects are closed using a patch. At present the used materials are less than ideal, mainly because of recurrence and chest deformation. To overcome the above limitations, alternative medical therapies (pharmacologic or cell therapy) that are more potent and less invasive are needed. Also a more functional postnatal repair may be possible when using novel scaffolds or engineered constructs. We see a prominent place for autologous amniotic fluid-derived stem cells for these novel strategies, which could be prenatally harvested following appropriate patient selection by noninvasive imaging.

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