Researchers have found a way to take a pediatric patient’s skin cells, reprogram the skin cells to function as heart valvular cells, and then use the cells as part of a tissue-engineered pulmonary valve, according to a proof of concept study published in the September 2014 issue of The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.
This study is the first step toward demonstrating the feasibility of creating a patient-specific pulmonary valve that contains live cells from the patient.
The pulmonary valve is a crescent-shaped valve that lies between the heart’s right ventricle and pulmonary artery. It is responsible for moving blood from the heart into the lungs. A patient-specific pulmonary valve can grow with the patient, reducing the need for future replacements and, thus, improving the patient’s quality of life.
“Current valve replacements cannot grow with patients as they age, but the use of a patient-specific pulmonary valve would introduce a ‘living’ valvular construct that should grow with the patient. Our study is particularly important for pediatric patients who often require repeated operations for pulmonary valve replacements,” said lead author David L. Simpson, PhD, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Simpson and colleagues designed a process to transform skin cells from a simple biopsy into cells that become an important ingredient in a tissue-engineered pulmonary valve.
While the study was conducted in vitro (outside of the body), the next step will be implanting the new valves into patients to test their durability and longevity.