Children’s of Alabama Joins Consortium on Rare Congenital Heart Disease

Pictured from left are: Dr. Waldemar Carlo, director of Heart Transplantation at Children’s of Alabama; Dr. Tim Nelson, director of Mayo Clinic’s Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome; Michael Warren, Children’s of Alabama CEO; and Dr. Robert Dabal, chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Children’s of Alabama.

Children’s of Alabama, in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, will soon begin using a breakthrough stem cell therapy to treat patients with an especially challenging form or congenital heart disease.

Children’s of Alabama has joined the Mayo Clinic’s Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) consortium to provide solutions for patients with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart disease in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped.

Children’s of Alabama will begin enrolling patients soon in the consortium’s phase II stem cell therapy clinical trial for infants with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. During the second of three surgeries to repair the heart, stem cells from the baby’s own umbilical cord blood are injected into the heart muscle to help it grow stronger, and delay or prevent the need for transplant. The phase I clinical trial results were published in July, demonstrating that this procedure is safe and feasible.

Children’s of Alabama has one of the largest pediatric cardiovascular programs in the Southeast, the Pediatric and Congenital Heart Center, which provides care for more than 12,000 patients a year. The center is a joint cooperative with the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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“The heart specialists at Children’s of Alabama combine knowledge and experience to care for infants and children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and we are excited that this new collaboration with Mayo Clinic gives us the opportunity to continue paving the way for more research about congenital heart defects,” says Waldemar Carlo, director of Heart Transplantation at Children’s of Alabama.

Children’s of Alabama is the 10th member of the HLHS Consortium, joining Children’s Hospital Colorado, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Children’s Minnesota, The Children’s Hospital at OU Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Cincinnati Children’s, Mayo Clinic and Ochsner Hospital for Children, as well as the advocacy group Sisters by Heart.

Across the consortium to date, 18 patients have been treated as part of the phase II study. Children’s of Alabama began collecting cord blood earlier this year.

Children’s of Alabama, with 332 beds and 48 bassinets, provided care for children from every county in Alabama, 42 other states and seven foreign countries last year, representing 677,000 outpatient visits and more than 15,000 inpatient admissions.

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