U of M granted $3.7 million for research to reduce surgeries for pediatric heart patients

The U.S. Department of Defense has given University of Minnesota-led researchers $3.7 million for a human clinical trial that aims to reduce the amount of surgeries needed for children with congenital heart defects, the university says.

Researchers will test bioengineered blood vessels that grow with the patient, the university says.

The trial aims to improve treatment for children who were born with heart defects because patients often outgrow vessel grafts, the current method, meaning they require a series of surgeries as they grow.

“This grant is a major step forward and will allow us to do everything that’s necessary to get to day one of a first clinical trial where we would implant one of our lab-created blood vessels into an infant with a heart defect,” said Robert Tranquillo, McKnight University biomedical engineering professor.

Before human trials can begin, preliminary studies must be completed. The university says Tranquillo and research associate Zeeshan Syedain will partner with the U of M medical school to test the blood vessels in lambs.

Tranquillo says if the human trials are successful, there is potential to grow the research into related conditions, like heart valve defects.

“This (research) would substantially reduce trauma and risk for children and the overwhelming health care costs for families,” Tranquillo said.