CDH affects 1,600 babies in the U.S. each year. In CDH, a hole in the diaphragm allows abdominal organs to move upwards into the chest during development, crowding the lungs and inhibiting their proper growth. Underdeveloped lungs and blood vessels that supply the lungs can cause high blood pressure in the lungs, asthma, gastrointestinal reflux, feeding disorders and developmental delays in childhood survivors of CDH.
Upon meeting with Colorado Fetal Care Center maternal fetal medicine specialist and fetal surgeon Nick Behrendt, MD, the Oligmuellers learned their case of TTTS was severe. The best solution for TTTS is typically fetoscopic laser ablation. It’s a minimally invasive surgery in which the surgeon inserts a tiny scope into the uterus, through the amniotic sac.
The team at UC Davis decided to separate these conjoined twins at 9 months of age. They took special precautions such as house calls during COVID to give the girls the best chance at an amazing life.
With the CIRM funding, the UC Davis team will be able to launch their one-of-a-kind treatment in the coming months. It will be delivered while the baby is still in the mother’s womb (in utero). The complex procedure, with its unique use of a stem cell “patch,” could improve outcomes for children who are born with the severe form of spina bifida known as myelomeningocele.