HLHS Cause to Cure

Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome Program from Mayo Clinic

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May 12, 2016

Doctors from Mayo Clinic and The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center Collaborate on Research Around Rare Congenital Heart Defect

By suzannerferguson

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA. AND ROCHESTER, MINN. –   The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City and Mayo Clinic’s Todd and Karen Wanek Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) are championing research and treatments for a rare congenital heart defect and recently published a collaborative article in “The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.”

HLHS heart blocks labelled

Drs. Harold Burkhart and Jess L. Thompson, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons at The Children’s Heart Center at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, along with Dr. Timothy J. Nelson of Mayo Clinic, worked on the article, published in the January 2016 volume. Together they are also conducting clinical trials studying treatments for HLHS. HLHS is a rare congenital heart defect in which the left side of a baby’s heart is severely underdeveloped and unable to pump an adequate blood supply throughout the body.

As Burkhart, Thompson and Nelson discuss in the article, treatment for HLHS is evolving to include cell-based therapies in addition to surgery. They cite their ongoing research on cell-based therapy for HLHS that has been taking place since 2013.

“This article serves to point out the exciting new opportunities available to babies born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome,” Burkhart said. “I am pleased that Children’s and Mayo Clinic are able to work together to ensure that the children of Oklahoma are offered the most up-to-date therapies without having to leave the state.”

Their current research includes using umbilical cord blood collected from newborns with HLHS. During the second of three surgeries, the baby’s own cord blood cells collected at birth are injected into the heart muscle. The ongoing research is to determine if the cord blood cells can increase the volume and strength of the heart muscle to delay or even prevent heart transplantation.

Traditional treatment for babies born with HLHS involves three open-heart surgeries typically performed within the first few years of life. The surgeries redirect blood flow through the heart. Often, heart transplants are required later on in life for these patients.

“It is our goal to delay and even prevent heart failure for children with HLHS. We are working with other institutions to make this goal a reality,” Nelson said. “By creating an HLHS consortium to expand the reach of HLHS research, we are making it possible for all children to be able to participate in the new therapies, including these cell-based treatments.”

The CDC estimates that about 960 babies are born with HLHS each year in the U.S. The cause of the congenital heart defect is currently unknown. HLHS is typically diagnosed during in utero or shortly after the baby is born.


The Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a collaborative network of specialists bonded by the vision of delaying or preventing heart failure for individuals affected by congenital heart defects including HLHS. The specialized team is addressing the various aspects of these defects by using research and clinical strategies ranging from basic science, to diagnostic imaging to regenerative therapies.

Tags: Dr. Burkhart, Dr. Harold Burkhart, Dr. Nelson, Dr. Timothy Nelson, regenerative therapy, research, stem cell, stem cells, The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, Uncategorized

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