Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has joined the first national study to employ stem cells to stave off heart failure in kids born with half a heart.

The East Hollywood medical center has joined a nationwide consortium of researchers to conduct a first-ever phase 1 clinical trial to use stem cells from umbilical cord blood in children born with an often fatal rare congenital heart defect.

The new consortium aims to help children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, in which the left ventricle is severely underdeveloped and can’t pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Without numerous surgeries, HLHS is fatal.

The study will combine surgery with regenerative medicine involving stem cells.

“This is one of the earliest efforts at harnessing the power of stem cell technology for the care of children with a serious cardiac disease,” said Dr. Ram Kumar Subramanyan, a cardiothoracic surgeon leading the HLHS study at the Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital L.A.

Launched by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the research group includes Minnesota Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the only West Coast member.

Health business reporter Dana Bartholomew can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @_DanaBart.

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