Cell Therapy Trials in Congenital Heart Disease

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Abstract

Dramatic evolution in medical and catheter interventions and complex surgeries to treat children with congenital heart disease (CHD) has led to a growing number of patients with a multitude of long-term complications associated with morbidity and mortality. Heart failure in patients with hypoplastic left heart syndrome predicated by functional single ventricle lesions is associated with an increase in CHD prevalence and remains a significant challenge. Pathophysiological mechanisms contributing to the progression of CHD, including single ventricle lesions and dilated cardiomyopathy, and adult heart disease may inevitably differ. Although therapeutic options for advanced cardiac failure are restricted to heart transplantation or mechanical circulatory support, there is a strong impetus to develop novel therapeutic strategies. As lower vertebrates, such as the newt and zebrafish, have a remarkable ability to replace lost cardiac tissue, this intrinsic self-repair machinery at the early postnatal stage in mice was confirmed by partial ventricular resection. Although the underlying mechanistic insights might differ among the species, mammalian heart regeneration occurs even in humans, with the highest degree occurring in early childhood and gradually declining with age in adulthood, suggesting the advantage of stem cell therapy to ameliorate ventricular dysfunction in patients with CHD. Although effective clinical translation by a variety of stem cells in adult heart disease remains inconclusive with respect to the improvement of cardiac function, case reports and clinical trials based on stem cell therapies in patients with CHD may be invaluable for the next stage of therapeutic development. Dissecting the differential mechanisms underlying progressive ventricular dysfunction in children and adults may lead us to identify a novel regenerative therapy. Future regenerative technologies to treat patients with CHD are exciting prospects for heart regeneration in general practice.

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