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Mayo partners with renowned children's hospital to tackle heart defect

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Mayo Clinic announced a collaboration with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia this week to combat hypoplastic left heart syndrome , or HLHS.

The rare and complex form of congenital heart disease affects about 1,000 babies per year and can be fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It typically results in difficulty breathing, a weak pulse and an ashen or blue skin color. Many babies require a feeding tube, and three separate surgeries often are required, with a heart transplant deemed a final resort.

The new partnership between Mayo Clinic's Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia — the nation's first pediatric hospital — aims to accelerate innovation, discovery sciences and clinical expertise by investing local resources back into research, according to a release from Mayo. The program seeks to work with "five to seven regional centers across the U.S. to fund the development of cell-based innovative research opportunities to transform the lives of people living with hypoplastic left heart syndrome."

"By entering into this collaboration, we are making it possible for all children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome to be able to participate in cell-based treatments, no matter their location," said Timothy Nelson, M.D., director of the Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome . "This new hypoplastic left heart syndrome consortium significantly expands the reach of hypoplastic left heart syndrome research."

The National Institutes of Health reports that HLHS had a 95 percent mortality rate before the 1980s. According to 2010 research from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, reconstructive heart surgery now affords infants an "excellent" chance of early survival among about two-thirds of recipients.

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Mayo created its HLHS program in 2010 before adding its expertise to the nation's oldest pediatric hospital. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is ranked third in the latest U.S. News & World Report Best Children's Hospital for Pediatric Cardiology and Heart Surgery.

"Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has a long-standing history of caring for children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and this exciting collaboration with Mayo Clinic offers promising opportunities to develop new ways to give patients an even better quality of life," said Robert Shaddy, M.D., chief of Cardiology, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Lifesaving palliative surgery reroutes a child's blood flow, but patients may have significant health problems, as they grow up with a unique circulation. Cell-based therapy offers us another potential option — beyond conventional medical treatments, ventricular assist devices or transplants — for a child or young adult with a failing heart."

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