MSU researchers search for answers to congenital heart disease


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)—-A team of researchers at Michigan State University is conducting a study targeting the nutrition of pregnant women and how it could coincide with congenital heart-disease before their child is born.

Aitor Aguirre, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at MSU is leading the specific project and qualified for a $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Aguirre stated they take a look at heart lipids and relate that to diet, fetus development, and focus on the formation of a fetal heart.

“We started this study without any kind of hypothesis and we find out it’s an increase of liquids that were contributing very significantly to the development of that heart,” stated Aguirre,“and we didn’t expect to see that so then we went to look at where those lipids were and we found out the lipids are taken out of the diet.”

Aguirre stated nearly one out of 100 children are impacted by congenital heart defect.

Now, after the rapid discovery Aguirre and other health experts want to delve in with more research to understand if diet could be a leading cause to congenital heart defect, or if it’s one of the causes.

“We really need to know a lot more to tackle the host of diseases not only congenital heart disease but also other diseases that affect newborns and embryos.” Aguirre exclaimed.

Aguirre says if this study is a future-success then he hopes doctors will be able to help by prescribing certain vitamins to pregnant women at risk for the defect.

Meanwhile, Dr. Joseph Vettukattil is the division chief of congenital cardiology, and co-director of the Congenital Heart Center at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids started to talk to his very own patients regarding congenital heart-defect, and is also one of the heath experts involved with this research-study.

He works hand-in-hand with families and treats children and newborns impacted by the defect.
pediatric cardiologist

“My role is to basically understand what’s going on with patients,” stated Dr. Joseph Vettukattil.

Dr. Vettukattil’s future-role in Aguirre’s work will be to provide helpful samples to investigate further.  He will work as more of a collaborator to provide knowledge, or interpretation for the work Aguirre is doing.

“If you see a picture of a kid who has been born a newborn connected with 100 different machines and has undergone cardiac surgery, just days after being born I mean that’s one of the most terrible things you can see its heartbreaking.” Aguirre said.

So far, the next step will be preclinical trials with mice.

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