New collaboration aims to provide solutions for patients with hypoplastic left heart syndrome

Mayo Clinic's Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) and Children's of Alabama announce their collaboration within a consortium to provide solutions for patients with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare and complex form of congenital heart disease in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped.

The consortium aligns regional medical centers of excellence and advocacy groups with the shared goal of finding solutions for people affected by congenital heart disease, including HLHS. The nationwide consortium, which was developed by Mayo Clinic's Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, works to accelerate innovation and discovery science by bringing clinical trials and expertise to patients across the country.

The HLHS Consortium is really a movement of inspired leaders who believe we can do things differently. We are expecting to do things faster than ever before, and we know that bringing in the hardworking efforts and outstanding outcomes of Children's of Alabama will help enhance our research.

Tim Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., director of Mayo Clinic's Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome

Children's of Alabama is the 10th member of the HLHS Consortium, joining Children's Hospital Colorado, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Children's Minnesota, The Children's Hospital at OU Medicine, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Cincinnati Children's, Mayo Clinic, and Ochsner Hospital for Children, as well as the advocacy group Sisters by Heart.

The Pediatric and Congenital Heart Center at Children's of Alabama is one of the largest pediatric cardiovascular programs in the Southeast, providing care for more than 12,000 patients a year. The program, which is led by Robert Dabal, M.D., chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery, and Waldemar F. Carlo, M.D., director of Heart Transplantation, is a joint cooperative with The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"The heart specialists at Children's of Alabama combine knowledge and experience to care for infants and children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and we are excited that this new collaboration with Mayo Clinic gives us the opportunity to continue paving the way for more research about congenital heart defects," says Dr. Carlo, a pediatric cardiologist at Children's of Alabama. "Joining this esteemed group of health care providers brings us closer to even more resources for our patients and their families." Dr. Carlo is an assistant professor in the Division of Pediatric Cardiology at The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Children's of Alabama plans to soon begin enrolling patients in the consortium's phase II stem cell therapy clinical trial for infants with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. During the second of three surgeries to repair the heart, stem cells from the baby's own umbilical cord blood are injected into the heart muscle to help it grow stronger, and delay or prevent the need for transplant. The phase I clinical trial results were published in July, demonstrating that this procedure is safe and feasible.

As part of the phase I study, 23 patients were treated successfully. The larger trial is now open across the consortium. To date, 18 patients have been treated as part of the phase II study. Children's of Alabama began collecting cord blood earlier this year.

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