Around one per cent of babies are born with congenital heart defects – a problem with the structure or function of their heart that can be life-threatening. And although survival is growing year on year, with millions of children around the world making it to adulthood, many aren’t so lucky and it’s still a leading cause of infant death. Around a quarter of babies born with congenital heart defects need surgery within the first year of life, sometimes requiring repeated operations to patch up missing or damaged regions as their heart grows. But it might not have to be this way in the future. Scientists are investigating how to use heart cells like these – taken from a new-born baby’s heart during surgery – to create tissue grafts that would behave just like the normal structures of the heart, growing along with the baby and meaning that just one operation would be enough.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.