Susan Solomon, the founder of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, sheds unique insight on the importance of bioengineered stem cells and tissue-specific model systems. These cells are not only of value as a potential therapeutic, but also allow scientists to have a “live” model of a particular disease to study patients in the laboratory. The HLHS program is currently studying bioengineered stem cells and cardiac tissue – derived from an ordinary skin sample – from people with HLHS to understand the underlying cause of the congenital heart condition. By doing this, the HLHS team also gains valuable insight into potential novel therapies that could be used to prevent, reverse, or treat the root cause of the abnormal cardiac development. The current vision is to use stem cell-based therapeutics as a strategy to strengthen the existing heart muscle. Having a “disease-in-a-dish” for HLHS offers an innovative way to accelerate these efforts.
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.