Update on stem cell technologies in congenital heart disease

J Card Surg. 2020 Jan;35(1):174-179. doi: 10.1111/jocs.14312. Epub 2019 Nov 9.


Background: Congenital heart disease (CHD) continues to be among the most common birth defects, affecting an estimated 40 000 births annually in the United States. The most common complication of CHD is heart failure. With improved medical management and surgical outcomes, survival for complex congenital heart defects has dramatically improved, but consequentially there are more adults with CHD than children with CHD. Due to longer-term sequelae of CHD, surgical and medical treatment previously thought to be curative is now realized at best to be palliative, and there is a considerable burden of CHD-related heart failure. Stem cell therapy as an adjunct to current surgical and medical strategies is being explored in an effort to ameliorate CHD-related heart failure. This review aims to explore the current literature with regard to stem cell therapy for CHD as well as ongoing trials.

Methods: A MEDLINE (Ovid), MEDLINE (Pubmed), and clinicaltrials.gov search were performed using the medical subject headings congenital heart defects combined with hematopoietic stem cells, stem cell transplantation, mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), cell- or tissue-based therapy, or MSC transplantation. Articles must have been published after 2010.

Results: Twenty three articles and 9 ongoing trials met all inclusion criteria.

Conclusions: Areas of interest include myocardiocyte regeneration, tissue graft development to minimize reoperations, and methods of stem cell delivery. While several small trials are showing promise, it is too soon to make definitive statements about the future of stem cell therapies in this field.

Keywords: Norwood procedure; congenital heart disease; hypoplastic left heart syndrome; pediatric cardiac surgery; stem cell therapy.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Humans
  • Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome / surgery
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*