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LAGUNA NIGUEL, CA (CBSMiami) – Doctors in Los Angeles are using stem cells to try to strengthen the hearts of children born with a life-threatening condition. They believe the groundbreaking trial could help these patients lead much longer lives.

“You breathe a sigh of relief when you hear her breathe,” said Eva Weiler.

Weiler was 20 weeks into her pregnancy when doctors diagnosed her unborn daughter Alise with hypoplastic left heart syndrome – commonly called HLHS.

“She has half a heart, her left ventricle really doesn’t exist. The diagnosis is devastating and you look for anything that’s gonna give you hope,” said Weiler.

Children with HLHS typically undergo three surgeries that allow the developed side of their heart to pump blood to the entire body. But by early adulthood, the heart starts to fail.

So doctors at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are trying something new, collecting the baby’s cord blood at birth to gather stem cells.

When the child undergoes their 2nd HLHS surgery, “we’re going to inject stem cells into the right ventricle,” said Dr. Ram Kumar Subrmanyan.

Subrmanyan believes injecting the stem cells directly into the heart will help stimulate muscle growth, making it stronger.

“And the hope is that this will delay or even prevent heart failure in this subset of patients,” he said.

Researchers say, so far, they’re seeing positive results in children who received the injections as part of a clinical trial.

Weiler is hopeful it will make a difference.

“I wanna give her every possible chance that I can,” she said.

A chance for a stronger heart and a longer life.

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