New hope for child heart condition patients

Around 100 young people die suddenly and unexpectedly from cardiac arrest in New Zealand each year.

Many are due to inherited diseases and could be prevented.

But a Swedish researcher is giving hope to Kiwi families.

Six-year-old Jasmine Curran reads a letter of thanks to the doctors who saved her life - she calls them superheroes.

Two years ago, when she was on holiday in the Bay of Islands, her heart suddenly stopped.

"I didn't know how to do CPR," says dad Simon Curran. "We didn't have a defibrillator on our boat, our daughter was blue and we were moments away from losing her."

She spent six long weeks in hospital but made it through with the help of people like children's heart specialist Professor Jon Skinner.

She now has a defibrillator implanted in her chest and takes beta blockers every day.

Mr Curran would like to raise awareness, increase the availability of defibrillators, and see more funding for research into finding cures.

"If we were ever going to innovate, childrens' health and heart conditions seems like the place we should start," says Mr Curran.

Inherited heart disease remains a major killer of young people in New Zealand.

Dr Annika Winbo from the University of Auckland is trying to help saves lives with her cutting-edge research.

"We need to be able to predict better which patients are at risk of sudden death and life threatening arrhythmias, and to do that we need to know more about the triggers of arrhythmia," she says.

In an extraordinary process Dr Annika Winbo grows heart cells.

She takes ordinary blood cells from patients with cardiac inherited disease and, using a chemical process, turns them back into stem cells.

Then from those stem cells she can create new heart cells, which she can study in the laboratory.

"We can see their heart rates, how they respond to different types of drugs and stresses that we apply," she says.

She now hopes to get funding to continue this research in New Zealand, to better understand the disease and help find potential novel treatments.