3D Printing and Stem Cell Research Advance Treatment for Congenital Heart Disease

“Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect in the world, affecting almost nine out of every 1,000 babies born. Michael Davis, Director of the Children’s Heart Research and Outcomes Center (HeRO) under Georgia Tech and Emory University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, is dedicated to solving paediatric congenital heart defects using advanced technology, particularly stem cell research and 3D printing. The conditions that Davis and his lab deal with include hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) and left ventricular cardiomyopathy. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta(CHOA) has been giving Davis and his team access to a large number of paediatric cardiac patients who are in need of new, experimental therapies.

Davis’ research includes extensive work with stem cells. A few years ago, he noticed that during bypass surgery, small amounts of tissue were being removed to run the bypass tubing into the heart, and then discarded. Davis requested and was granted permission to use the tissue for stem cell research. He then began extracting and quantifying the stem cells, and discovered that young cells had more reparative qualities and released healing proteins when injected into damaged tissue.

Davis’ first clinical trial with the stem cells, the Autologous Cardiac Stem Cell Injection in Patients with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (ACT-HLHS) Trial, has been cleared by the FDA and will be taking place in the next few months. Clinicians will inject stem cells into the hearts of babies with congenital heart disease to improve the function of the heart.

Davis observes the cells and gathers quantitative data on their behavior in his lab. He conducts his research on cord blood, bone marrow and cardiac stem cells. Along with Manu Platt, Diversity Director of STC on Emergent Behaviours of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS) at Georgia Tech, Davis has written a grant with the hope of combining all the cellular data from patients in three different clinical trials to create a large data repository of cell signals. Studying the signals, also known as protein secretions, can help Davis and Platt determine how effective certain cells are in treating diseases.”