The Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a research program with the goal of delaying or preventing heart failure for individuals with HLHS.

To learn more or to participate, please visit our website or contact HLHS@mayo.edu.

Follow the program on Facebook at Mayo Clinic HLHS, on Twitter @MayoClinicHLHS, and on Instagram at MayoClinicHLHS.

Oct 1, 2014

The Possibilities of Bone Marrow Stem Cells

By Suzanne R. Ferguson, @suzannerferguson

Stem cells are the body’s basic materials that can grow into new tissues.  There are different types of stem cells: embryonic, perinatal, bioengineered and adult stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells are used during normal human development to produce all of the tissues in our bodies. They also produce all of the adult stem cells that are used throughout our life to replace cells as needed in our bodies. For use in today’s clinical regeneration, adult stem cells can be collected from the bone marrow and fat tissue. Bone marrow stem cells come from the spongy tissue inside some bones and are the most commonly used stem cells to either directly differentiate into new tissues or stimulate damaged tissues in the body to accelerate the healing process for regenerative applications.

Bone marrow stem cells may be taken from adults through a blood and bone marrow donation. Doctors in the field of hematology have used this type of stem cell for decades to replace the red and white blood cells in patients undergoing aggressive chemotherapy for cancer. More recently, bone marrow derived cells are being repurposed for clinical regeneration of other tissue types, such as the heart muscle.

Regenerative medicine aims to repair unhealthy tissue using stem cells from within the body or that have been surgically delivered into the damaged tissues if needed. Bone marrow stem cells are a viable option to stimulate tissue renewal that may be too slow in some patients. Additionally, bone marrow stem cells can directly contribute to specific tissue types that need replacement to help grow new tissue.

While there is currently no approved stem cell therapy for HLHS heart repair, clinical trials and research studies investigating the possibilities are underway. The aim is to find the best possible cell types that are available to each patient at the right time to ultimately prevent or delay heart transplantation for congenital heart patients.


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. Contact the program at HLHS@mayo.edu.

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