LizHughesLisa Hughes BOSTON (WBZ) The doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital Boston perform life saving work every day, but they can’t do it without the help and fundraising support of friends like the Children’s Hospital League. The league has donated $14 million over the years for programs like art and music therapy and patient entertainment. They’ve even given the hospital an ambulance. But it’s their support of cutting edge research that may, in the near future, bring real hope to children with birth defects.
Shane Shannon is nearly 6-years old now, but even before he was born, doctors at Children’s were planning the surgery that would save his life. The problem: an ultrasound found a hole in his diaphragm. “In utero, it allowed his stomach, his intestines and part of his liver to move up into his chest cavity, which in turn pushed over his heart and crowded out his lungs” says Anne Shannon, Shane’s mother.” One day after he was born, surgeons fixed those problems and covered the hole with a gore-tex patch. “We obviously had concerns. Here was a foreign body being entered into our son’s body,” says Shane’s dad Scott Shannon. Since the artificial patch can’t grow along with Shane, he’ll have to be closely monitored for any signs of problems. But what if birth defects like Shane’s could be repaired using the baby’s own tissue? That’s what researchers at Children’s Hospital are attempting to do. It’s called fetal tissue engineering, and it’s proven successful in animal experiments.
WBZA small number of fetal cells are taken from the amniotic fluid and are used to grow tissue which is completely compatible with the baby, so it will not only grow with the child, it will not be rejected. Dr. Dario Fauza is the lead scientist. “Fetal cells are a wonderful raw material,” says Dr. Fauza. “Any defect that structurally impacts the baby’s well being can conceivably be treated this way, and the list is really sizable,” he adds.
Dr. Fauza’s work is just one of the ground breaking research projects the Children’s Hospital League supports with their generosity. “This collective group makes a huge difference in the lives of all the children and families that come into this hospital,” says Nancy Porter, the League’s co-president. “The freedom they give us is, I cannot say enough about how important that is,” says Dr. Fauza. “I am as grateful as one can be to the League for all the support they’ve given us,” he says. Fauza hopes to begin clinical trials of his techniques in the new year.
Today, Shane is doing great with the artificial patch, and his parents say the new research will help many kids like Shane lead healthy, happy lives. “Children’s Hospital is a place of hope,” says Anne Shannon. “They gave us him. For that we’re eternally grateful,” says Scott.
The Children’s Hospital League is about to hold its’ biggest fundraiser of the year. The Leagues’ black tie gala takes place on November 22. To find out how you can support the League check out