A heart surgeon may have saved a baby’s life thanks to a ‘world’s first’ stem cell operation

A heart surgeon has given a baby a “chance at life” thanks to a “world’s first” operation using stem cells taken from the placenta.

Finlay Pantry was born with a congenital heart defect which meant that the main arteries that supply blood to his lungs and body were in the wrong positions.

At just four days old, he had his first open-heart surgery to return the major arteries to normal.

Unfortunately, the newborn suffered complications and his heart function rapidly deteriorated, leaving him stuck in intensive care for weeks relying on medication and a ventilator to keep his heart beating.

Finlay Pantry (pictured with mum Melissa Hood) was born with a congenital heart defect that meant the main arteries that supply blood to his lungs and body were in the wrong positions

At just four days old, he underwent his first open-heart surgery to return the major arteries to normal

At just four days old, he underwent his first open-heart surgery to return the major arteries to normal

Heart defects: The most common type of abnormality that occurs before a baby is born

Heart defects are the most common type of abnormality that occurs before a baby is born, with around 13 babies diagnosed with a congenital heart condition every day in the UK.

Currently, for many of these children, surgeons can perform open-heart surgery to temporarily fix the problem, but the materials used for patches or replacement heart valves are not strictly biological and cannot grow with the child.

This means that the child may therefore have to undergo the same thermal procedure several times throughout childhood, keeping them in the hospital for weeks at a time.

But thanks to one doctor, he now lives as a happy two-year-old looking forward to Christmas with his family in Corsham, Wiltshire.

Professor Massimo Caputo, of the Bristol Heart Institute, told Finlay’s mother he could try using the lead stem cell “scaffolding” to correct the heart defect.

The procedure involved stem cells from a placenta bank injected directly into Finley’s heart in the hopes that they would help damaged blood vessels grow back.

Remarkably, Finley was then weaned off the medication and ventilation he was using – and is now “a happy growing little boy”.

Finley’s mother, Melissa Hood, said: ‘We almost lost Finley when he was only two months old. The doctors called us into a room and told us they had done everything they could.

That’s when Massimo came to find us and explained that there was only one option left – injecting stem cells into the left side of Finlay’s heart.

We have been warned that he cannot predict what the outcome will be. But we have absolutely nothing to lose. We had to try and give Finley every possible chance to live.

Within just two weeks of stem cell therapy, the family noticed a change in Finley, and he was first sent home as a six-month-old on a machine that still helps him breathe at night.

Unfortunately, the newborn suffered complications and his heart function rapidly deteriorated, leaving him stuck in intensive care for weeks relying on medication and a ventilator to keep his heart beating.

Unfortunately, the newborn suffered complications and his heart function rapidly deteriorated, leaving him stuck in intensive care for weeks relying on medication and a ventilator to keep his heart beating.

Professor Massimo Caputo, of the Bristol Heart Institute, told Finlay's mother he could try using pioneering stem cell 'scaffolds' to correct the heart defect.

Professor Massimo Caputo, of the Bristol Heart Institute, told Finlay’s mother he could try using pioneering stem cell ‘scaffolds’ to correct the heart defect.

“We cannot thank Massimo enough,” said Miss Hood. I think if it weren’t for stem cell therapy, Finlay wouldn’t be here with us today.

“Finlay is so feisty and funny – he’s a real heart fighter and I tell him that all the time.

“We don’t know what the future brings, but we are so grateful for Finley’s life changed after stem cell therapy as he now has a chance in life that he wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Heart defects are the most common type of abnormality that occurs before a baby is born, with around 13 babies diagnosed with a congenital heart condition every day in the UK.

Finlay now lives as a happy two-year-old looking forward to Christmas with his family in Corsham, Wiltshire

Finlay now lives as a happy two-year-old looking forward to Christmas with his family in Corsham, Wiltshire

The stem cell injection treatment Finley received inspired Professor Caputo to develop stem cell 'plasters' that could grow with a child's heart as he got older, eliminating the need for repeated surgeries and the many days in hospital to recover after each one.

The stem cell injection treatment Finley received inspired Professor Caputo to develop stem cell ‘plasters’ that could grow with a child’s heart as he got older, eliminating the need for repeated surgeries and the many days in hospital to recover after each one.

Currently, for many of these children, surgeons can perform open-heart surgery to temporarily fix the problem, but the materials used for patches or replacement heart valves are not strictly biological and cannot grow with the child.

This means that the child may therefore have to undergo the same thermal procedure several times throughout childhood, keeping them in the hospital for weeks at a time.

The stem cell injection treatment Finley received inspired Professor Caputo to develop stem cell “plasters” that could grow with a child’s heart as he got older, eliminating the need for frequent surgeries and many days in hospital to recover after each one.

Professor Caputo has now secured £750,000 from the British Heart Foundation with the aim of getting these patches ready for testing in patients, so that clinical trials can begin in the next two years.

Professor Caputo has now secured £750,000 from the British Heart Foundation with the aim of getting these patches ready for testing in patients, so that clinical trials can begin in the next two years.

Professor Caputo has now secured £750,000 from the British Heart Foundation with the aim of getting these patches ready for testing in patients, so that clinical trials can begin in the next two years.

He said: ‘For years, families have come to us asking why their child needs to have heart surgery over and over again.

Although every operation can save a life, the experience can put an incredible amount of stress on the child and his or her parents.

“We believe our stem cell patches will be the answer to these problems.”

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Stem cells help researchers study mammalian development, allowing them to fight disease and create organs for human transplantation

Stem cells are the raw materials of the body—a basic type of cell that can change into another, more specialized type of cell through a process known as differentiation.

Think of stem cells as a new slurry that can be molded and transformed into any cell in the body — including bone, muscle, skin, and more.

This ability means they have been the focus of much medical research in recent decades.

They grow in embryos as embryonic stem cells, helping a rapidly growing infant make the millions of different cell types it needs to build before birth.

The embryonic stem cells used in the research come from unused embryos, which result from an in vitro fertilization procedure and are donated to science.

In adults they are used as repair cells, replacing those we have lost through damage or aging.

For adults, there are two types: One type comes from fully developed tissues such as the brain, skin, and bone marrow. The other includes pluripotent stem cells.

Pluripotent stem cells have been altered in the laboratory to look more like embryonic stem cells.

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