Heart surgeon ‘probably saved the life’ of a baby boy thanks to ‘world-first’ stem cell operation

A heart surgeon gave a baby boy a ‘chance of life’ thanks to a ‘world’s first’ surgery using stem cells from the placenta.

Finley Pantry was born with a congenital heart defect, which means the two main arteries that supply blood to his lungs and body are in the wrong positions.

At just four days old, he had his first open heart surgery to return the main arteries to their normal position.

Unfortunately, the newborn suffered complications and her heart function deteriorated rapidly, resulting in her being in intensive care for weeks, relying on medications and a ventilator to keep her heart working.

Finley Pantry (pictured with his mother, Melissa Hudd) was born with a congenital heart defect meaning that the two main arteries that supply blood to his lungs and body are in the wrong positions.

Finley Pantry (pictured with his mother, Melissa Hudd) was born with a congenital heart defect meaning that the two main arteries that supply blood to his lungs and body are in the wrong positions.

At just four days old, he had his first open heart surgery to return the main arteries to their normal position.

At just four days old, he had his first open heart surgery to return the main arteries to their normal position.

Heart defects: The most common type of anomaly that develops before a baby is born

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

Currently, for most of these children, surgeons can perform open-heart surgery to temporarily repair the problem, but the materials used for the patches or replacement heart valves are completely non-biological and cannot grow with the baby.

This means that a child may have to go through the same heat treatment several times throughout childhood, keeping them in the hospital for weeks at a time.

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

Professor Massimo Caputo of the Bristol Heart Institute told Finley’s mother that he could try using the pioneer stem cell ‘scaffold’ to correct the heart defect.

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

Remarkably, Finley later dropped off his medications and ventilator – and is now a ‘little kid growing up happily’.

Finley’s mother, Melissa Hudd, said: “We almost lost when Finley was only two months old. The doctors called us into a room and said they were doing everything they could.

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

He warned us that he couldn’t predict what the outcome would be. But we had absolutely nothing to lose. We should have tried to give Finley every possible chance to live.’

The family noticed a change in Finley just two weeks after stem cell therapy, and Finley was sent home for the first time at six months old with a machine that still helped him breathe at night.

Unfortunately, the newborn suffered complications and her heart function deteriorated rapidly, resulting in her being in intensive care for weeks, relying on medications and a ventilator to keep her heart working.

Unfortunately, the newborn suffered complications and her heart function deteriorated rapidly, resulting in her being in intensive care for weeks, relying on medications and a ventilator to keep her heart working.

Professor Massimo Caputo of the Bristol Heart Institute told Finley's mother that he could try using the pioneer stem cell 'scaffold' to correct the heart defect.

Professor Massimo Caputo of the Bristol Heart Institute told Finley’s mother that he could try using the pioneer stem cell ‘scaffold’ to correct the heart defect.

“We can’t thank Massimo enough,” said Mrs. Hudd. “I believe Finley wouldn’t be here with us today if it weren’t for the stem cell therapy.

“Finley is very touchy and very funny – he’s a real heartbreaker and I tell him that all the time.

“We don’t know what the future will bring, but we are so grateful that Finley’s life has been turned upside down after stem cell therapy because he now has a chance at a life he might not have had otherwise.”

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

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

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

The stem cell injection therapy Finley received inspired Professor Caputo to develop stem cell 'casts' that can grow with a child's heart as he gets older, eliminating the need for repeat surgeries and days of hospitalization after each.

The stem cell injection therapy Finley received inspired Professor Caputo to develop stem cell ‘casts’ that can grow with a child’s heart as he gets older, eliminating the need for repeat surgeries and days of hospitalization after each.

Currently, for most of these children, surgeons can perform open-heart surgery to temporarily repair the problem, but the materials used for the patches or replacement heart valves are completely non-biological and cannot grow with the baby.

This means that a child may have to go through the same heat treatment several times throughout childhood, keeping them in the hospital for weeks at a time.

The stem cell injection therapy Finley received inspired Professor Caputo to develop stem cell ‘casts’ that can grow with a child’s heart as he gets older, eliminating the need for repeat surgeries and days of hospitalization after each.

Professor Caputo has now been awarded £750,000 by the British Heart Foundation to get these patches ready for testing in patients so clinical trials can begin within the next two years.

Professor Caputo has now been awarded £750,000 by the British Heart Foundation to get these patches ready for testing in patients so clinical trials can begin within the next two years.

Professor Caputo has now been awarded £750,000 by the British Heart Foundation to get these patches ready for testing in patients so clinical trials can begin within the next two years.

“For years, families have come to us and asked why their child should have heart surgery again and again.

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While any surgery can be lifesaving, the experience can place an incredible amount of stress on the child and their parents.

‘We believe our stem cell patches will be the answer to solve these problems.’

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Stem cells are helping researchers study mammalian development, allowing them to fight disease and create organs for human transplants.

Stem cells are the body’s raw materials – a basic type of cell that can turn into another more specialized cell type through a process known as differentiation.

Think of stem cells as a new ball of clay that can be transformed and shaped 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 as embryonic stem cells in embryos and help the rapidly growing baby create the millions of different types of cells that the baby must build before birth.

The embryonic stem cells used in the research come from unused embryos originating from the IVF procedure and donated to science.

In adults, they are used as repair cells that replace those we lose through damage or aging.

There are two types for adults: One type comes from fully developed tissues such as the brain, skin, and bone marrow; the other contains pluripotent stem cells.

Pluripotent stem cells have been modified in a lab to look more like embryonic stem cells.

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