Stem cells are truly capable of some amazing things. These cells can be used in some life-changing and, as the title suggests, lifesaving procedures and treatments. A heart surgeon has carried out a “world first” operation using placental stem cells.

Here is the full story.

Finley’s Story

Starting on a good note, Finley is now a happy and growing two-year-old. However, when he was born the two main arteries of his heart were the wrong way around. At just four days old he had open heart surgery to try and fix the issue. The surgery, unfortunately, didn’t solve the problem and Finley’s heart function got worse with the left side suffering from severe blood loss. Despite the 12-hour surgery, he needed a bypass machine to keep him alive.

Professor Massimo Caputo of the Bristol Heart Institute came to the parents with a new procedure that involved injecting placental stem cells directly into the heart in the hope that they help in repairing Finley’s damaged heart muscles.

These allogeneic cells (meaning donated from another individual) were grown in a lab at the Royal Free Hospital in London and then millions of them were injected into the boy’s heart. These cells can grow into tissue. They were not rejected and for Finley, there was hope they would regenerate the damaged heart muscle.

Over time, Finley was weaned off ventilation and drugs that were originally keeping him alive, released from the intensive therapy unit and is now a content young boy.

The Treatment

Artificial tissue is normally used for babies needing cardiac repairs. However, it can fail, and it also doesn’t grow with the child meaning they would need more operations as they grow.

Professor Caputo instead used a bio-printer to create a stem cell scaffold (like a little patch) designed to repair abnormalities and repair holes within the heart.

Caputo hopes that a clinical trial will happen in the next two years to work on these patches. They can provide hope for other patients such as Louie.

There is a hope that this clinical trial will provide evidence that this success could be repeated.


Thirteen-year-old Louie had his first heart surgery with Caputo when he was two weeks old and then another aged four. Due to the material being used to repair his heart, which is not 100% biological, it did not grow with him. He therefore needs repeat operations.

Louie is hoping that the breakthrough will mean the number of procedures he will need in his lifetime is reduced.

Placenta Banking

Alongside cord blood and cord tissue, the placenta cells are equally useful. With Cells4Life you can choose to privately store placental cells so that should your family need them they will have immediate access to them. The cells found in the placenta are different from those found in the blood and tissue so can be used in different treatments.

If you have any questions about storing your cord blood, tissue or placental cells get in content with us today.  

Request a Welcome Pack

Find out more about cord blood banking by downloading a Welcome Pack now.


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