Saturday, March 24, 2012

Doctors Use Stem Cells to Grow New Blood Vessel for Young Girl with Heart Defect

Some Not So Dismal News – and a Cautionary Comment

The Dismal Political Economist must every now and then offset the dismal news he presents with some good news.  The Wall Street Journal reports how a medical team has grown an entirely new blood vessel for young girl with a defective heart, and how that has restored her to near perfect health.

Jesse Neider for the Wall Street Journal
Angela, 4, and brother Alexander, 8, play
 as their mother Claudia Irizarry prepares
 a snack in their Bridgeport, Conn., home. Angela 
was born with a rare heart defect.

Doctors at Yale University here implanted in Angela's chest in August a bioabsorbable tube that is designed to dissolve over time. The tube was seeded with cells, including stem cells, that had been harvested from Angela's bone marrow. Since then, the doctors say, the tube has disappeared, leaving in its place a conduit produced by Angela's cells that functions like a normal blood vessel.

"We're making a blood vessel where there wasn't one," says Christopher Breuer, the Yale pediatric surgeon who led the 12-hour procedure to implant the device. "We're inducing regeneration."

Notice we have a near perfect story here.  The stem cells were not taken from embryos, but from the patient’s own bone marrow.  So no controversy there.  And it doesn’t take a medical education or even strong medical knowledge to think about the possibilities if this type of regenerative therapy is successful.  For starters, 3,000 babies could have a chance to live, and live normal productive lives.

Angela's condition, known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, affects some 3,000 newborns in the U.S. each year. With just one pumping chamber, or ventricle, instead of the usual two, the babies can't deliver sufficient levels of oxygen to their organs and extremities, compromising their development and causing them to turn blue and suffer from a lack of energy. Without a surgical repair, says Dr. Breuer, 70% of them die before their first birthday.

Notice also that here is a concrete achievement of applied research.  Those who spend their time and precious research dollars looking at questions of why the universe is expanding, or why there is not an equal amount of matter and anti-matter take note.  There are opportunities to do some actual good with your time, money, expertise, education, training and intelligence.


  1. Again, your lack of distinction between the sciences of biology and physics is bizarre.

  2. Actually the distinction I am trying to present is between research whose benefit/cost ratio is greater than one and whose benefit cost ratio is less than one.

    For much of physics like research into why the universe is expanding it seems this ratio is zero.