This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.
Last July, Jennifer Gutman told Toledo, Ohio’s 13abc Action News that the day doctors diagnosed her unborn son, Lucas, with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, also known as HLHS, was “the worst day of her life.” The diagnosis came during what Jennifer and her husband, Brian, thought would be a routine 22-week ultrasound. The startling news conjured up immediate fears for Lucas’ future, and painful memories for Jennifer. “My brother was also born with HLHS,” she tells us. “He passed away as an infant.”
Determined to not let Lucas meet that same fate, Jennifer’s sister-in-law, a physician, began reaching out to colleagues for advice. This led her to Timothy Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., a physician at Mayo’s Rochester campus. Dr. Nelson is the lead researcher on a clinical trial that aims to determine whether regenerative therapies like stem cell injections can “strengthen” the right side of the heart of HLHS patients enough to “delay — or even prevent — the need for heart transplants” later in life, according to MayoClinic.org.