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Research that’s Being Done at Mississippi State to Help Children who are Born with Heart Defects

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 19 Feb 2011 12:54pm | comments
Doctors say in Mississippi at least 400 children this year will need heart surgery to stay alive.

One in every one hundred children born in the United States has some form of heart defect. In Mississippi that means at least 400 children this year will need heart surgery to stay alive. As part of National Engineering week MPB's Lawayne Childrey examines research that is already being done in the state to help children's hearts grow stronger.

Two year old Christian Collier of Madison just may be one of the happiest kids in the world.

“Now where do you go to school Christian?”

“Building Blocks”

As he sits in his high chair nibbling his lunch you can't help but notice his bright smile, big bursts of energy and extreme intelligence.
“Can you count for him?”

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9”

“Can you do it in Spanish now?”

“uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete”

Four months after Christian was born doctors discovered he had inherited a rare genetic disorder from his mother that was causing his left heart ventricle to thicken, slowing the blood flow through his heart. Dita and Jeff are Christians parents.

“The only reason we found out about it was because he was born with the 3 holes in his heart.” What he has is hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, And often times you’ll hear the story of the student athlete that collapses at practice and nobody knows why, a lot of times it’s that.”

While adults may acquire heart disease like clogged valves and arteries over time .....Dr. Jorge Salazar, the pediatric heart surgeon at University Medical Center says children often have what's called congenital heart disease.

“They can have holes in their heart, they can be born with blockages of valves, blockages of arteries. We literally see hundreds of different types of heart defects and to be able to provide this type of service to the children of Mississippi we have to be expert in all of them.”

“We test these tissues in our lab using mechanical testing machines.”

That's why researchers like Ali Borazjani, a graduate student at Mississippi State University are studying ways to correct the potentially fatal flaws found in the hearts of children. One way he says is to grow artificial pediatric heart valves using tissue from sources like simple processed shell fish.

“You can’t always have a heart transplant, there aren’t hearts left. So you can make one in the lab potentially. Or any organ you can deliver cells through tissue reconstruction.”

“These contain cells that are just growing at the moment.”

Dr. James Warnock who specializes in agriculture and biomedical engineering at MSU explains why finding an artificial heart valve replacement is so vitally important.

“Currently the only option that there is for children that are born with this defect is they have to have open heart surgery and they have to have that heart valve replaced with a mechanical valve. The problem with that is that the mechanical valve can’t grow with the patient. They’re gonna grow and as they grow their heart is gonna get larger. And so approximately every 3 to 5 years that child would then have to undergo another surgery.”

For that reason alone Dr. Warnock remains adamant about the research that is already being conducted in pediatric heart care.

“Heart valve surgery is one of the most expensive cardiovascular surgeries you can have. So there’s a huge economic burden associated with it. The other thing, probably the most important reason is that this research has the potential to greatly increase the quality of life of these young children, these infants and their families.”

“Ah…man”

The Colliers say advances in research is why they remain optimistic about the road ahead for Christian.

“You can rob your child of their life by being overly concerned and overly protective, don’t run don’t get over heated and so, you just let them be the child that they are within reasonable limitations under knowing what they have.”

“We don’t need to worry.”

“And we don’t have to.”

Even though Christian remains a-systematic he does take an oral medication daily that regulates his hearts blood flow. And while doctors say they are optimistic that the spunky two year old will continue to live a normal healthy life he could have a heart defibrillator installed by his14th birthday. That's unless new research dictates otherwise.

“Can you tell everybody bye bye?”

“Bye, bye.”

Lawayne Childrey MPB News.

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Doctors say in Mississippi at least 400 children this year will need heart surgery to stay alive.


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