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Monday, December 19, 2011

First artificial windpipe graft a success

Posted: 24 November 2011

The world's first transplant of a synthetic windpipe being carried out. (AFP/Karolinska University Hospital)
PARIS: The word's first artificial windpipe transplant has been such a success that a second operation has been carried out and a third is being planned, The Lancet reported on Thursday.

Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene, a 36-year-old Eritrean, is doing well after undergoing the ground-breaking operation in Stockholm in June, it said.

Beyene, a post-graduate geology student currently living in Reykjavik, Iceland, had his trachea removed because of cancer.

It was replaced in a 12-hour operation on June 9 with a synthetic "scaffold" covered with his own stem cells, or precursor cells of windpipe tissue.

"The patient has been doing great for the last four months and has been able to live a normal life," the British journal quoted Tomas Gudbjartsson, a professor at Landspitali University Hospital and University of Iceland in Reykjavik, as saying.

"For the last two months he has been able to focus on his studies and the plan is that he will defend his thesis at the end of this year."

The operation, led by Professor Paolo Macchiarini of Stockholm's Karolinska University Hospital, entailed using 3-D imaging to scan Beyene and then building a glass model of the afflicted section of his windpipe.

The glass was used to shape the artificial scaffold, which was then seeded with stem cells.

Macchiarini has just carried out his second transplant, on a 30-year-old man from Maryland, United States, who also had cancer of the trachea. The scaffold was made from nanofibres and thus "represents a further advance," the Journal quoted Macchiarini as saying.

His team is now hoping to treat a 13-month-old South Korean infant with the same technique.

"We will continue to improve the regenerative medicine approaches for transplanting the windpipe and extend it to the lungs, heart, and oesophagus," said Macchiarini.

It marks a step forward in regenerative medicine, as the organ is tailor-made to the patient, he said.

In addition, artificial organs do not require the long waiting time that usually happens in human donation.

As the stem cells come from the patient himself, this reduces risk of attack by the immune system, which is the case for donated organs whose rejection has to be combatted by taking powerful immunosuppressive drugs.


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First artificial windpipe graft a success

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Long-term study proves benefit of statins in heart disease

A long-term study, now this is something!

Posted: 23 November 2011

A model of a heart
PARIS: Statins safely reduce the risk of cardiovascular illness even years after treatment is stopped, according to a probe into the popular cholesterol-busters published on Wednesday.

Statins work by blocking a liver enzyme that makes fatty molecules which line arterial walls and boost the danger of heart disease and strokes.

With worldwide annual sales of more than 20 billion dollars, the drugs have been dubbed "the aspirin of the 21st century" because of their benefit and wide use.

But lingering questions persist about their long-term safety for the heart, liver and cancer risk.

Researchers at the Heart Protection Study Collaborative Group in Oxford looked at 20,536 patients at risk of cardiovascular disease who were randomly allocated 40mg daily of simvastatins or a dummy look-alike over more than five years.

During this period, those who took the statins saw a reduction in "bad" LDL cholesterol and a 23-per cent reduction in episodes of vascular ill-health compared to the placebo group.

The monitoring of the volunteers continued for a further six years after the trial ended.

The benefits persisted throughout this monitoring period among those volunteers who stopped taking the statins, the investigators found.

In addition, there was no emergence of any health hazard among those who had taken, or were continuing to take, the drugs.

A large number of cancers (nearly 3,500) developed during this follow-up period, but there was no difference in cancer incidence between the statin and placebo groups.

"The persistence of benefit we observed among participants originally allocated simvastatin during the subsequent six-year post-trial period is remarkable," said one of the investigators, Richard Bulbulia.

"In addition, the reliable evidence of safety, with no excess risk of cancer or other major illnesses during over 11 years follow-up, is very reassuring for doctors who prescribe statins and the increasingly large numbers of patients who take them long-term to reduce their risk of vascular disease."

A previous investigation in November 2010 found that long-term use of statins was less risky than thought for people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a common liver ailment.

- AFP/ck

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Long-term study proves benefit of statins in heart disease

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Pioneering liver treatment cures British baby

Another breakthrough, a medical advancement...

Posted: 16 November 2011

A group of cells was injected into a 8 year-old boy, saving him from acute liver failure. (AFP/Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)
LONDON: British doctors on Tuesday said they had cured a baby boy of a life-threatening liver disease using a pioneering treatment in which cells are injected into the abdomen.

The team from London's King's College Hospital treated eight-month old Iyaad Syed by injecting him with a group of cells, which acted as a temporary
liver while his real organ recovered from damage caused by a virus, BBC reported.

"This is the first time this treatment has been used to treat a child with acute liver failure," said professor Anil Dhawan, a liver specialist at the hospital.

"It's only a few months back when I first saw this child who was so sick requiring support on dialysis and a breathing machine.

"We think we have given him another chance of life and seeing him now six months down the road with nearly normal liver function is remarkable."

Syed would normally have been put on the transplant waiting list when his liver began to fail, but the hope now is that more cases will be cured using the new technique rather than relying on a scarce supply of donor organs.

Doctors injected liver cells which then processed toxins and produced proteins, fulfilling the role of a temporary liver while his own began to recover two weeks later.

The cells were treated with a chemical to prevent them from being destroyed by the youngster's immune system.

Iyaad's father, Jahangeer, called his son "a miracle boy", adding "it is brilliant and we are very proud of him."

The treatment's development now depends on an extensive clinical trial.

Andrew Langford, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, told the BBC: "The principle of this new technique is certainly ground-breaking and we would welcome the results of further clinical trials to see if it could become a standard treatment for both adults and children.

"Sadly, we have reached a breaking point with our transplant list in the UK, where approximately 100 people die waiting for a donor liver to become available each year."


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Pioneering liver treatment cures British baby

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Broken heart fix with stem cells

Posted: 15 November 2011

A model of a heart
PARIS: Stem cells from heart-attack patients helped improve blood-pumping ability and restore vitality in cardiac muscle, according to a small trial published on Monday.

It is the first time patients have been given an infusion of their own
cardiac stem cells in the aim of solving the impact of heart failure rather than simply treating the symptoms of it.

The findings are so promising that the study's chief investigator said a potential "revolution" was in the offing if larger trials succeeded.

Stem cells are infant cells that develop into the specialised tissues of the body.

They have sparked great excitement as they offer hopes of rebuilding organs damaged by disease or accident.

The new study, published online in The Lancet, tested cardiac stem cells on 16 patients who had been left gravely ill as a result of an acute myocardial infarction.

The index used for cardiac health is called the left ventricular ejection fraction (LVFV), which calculates the capacity of the left ventricle to expel blood in the space of a heartbeat.

For a person in normal health, the LVFV is 50 percent or higher.

Among the study patients, though, this had fallen to 40 percent or lower. At such a threshold, shortness of breath and fatigue are chronic and often disabling.

The stem cells were isolated from a coronary artery that had been removed when the patients underwent a coronary bypass.

Within four months of treatment, the LVFV rose by 8.5 percent and after a year by 12 percent - four times what the researchers had expected.

Scans of the patients' hearts also showed a reduction in the area of tissue that had been scarred by the infarction, a discovery that challenges conventional belief that once scarring occurs, heart tissue is permanently dead.

The volunteers also reported a substantial improvement in quality of life, and there were no significant side effects.

Seven patients with similar heart problems were enrolled as "controls", to serve as a comparison. There was no change in their LVFV, in scar tissue or in their quality of life.

"The results are striking," said lead investigator Roberto Bolli of the University of Louisville, Kentucky.

"While we do not know why the improvement occurs, we have no doubt now that 1/8LVFV 3/8 increased and scarring decreased.

"If these results hold up in future studies, I believe this could be the biggest revolution in cardiovascular medicine in my lifetime."

The team is seeking funding to launch a larger, or Phase II, trial - the second in the normal three-phase process of assessing a new treatment for safet and effectiveness.

Previous stem-cell work on heart damage has used cells harvested from bone marrow.

The interest in cardiac stem cells is that they are self-renewing, produce daughter cells and differentiate into all types of cells in the heart.

The results were presented concurrently at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Florida.


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Broken heart fix with stem cells

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Autistic brains are heavier, with more neurons: study

Posted: 09 November 2011

WASHINGTON: A post-mortem analysis of half a dozen autistic boys showed that their brains were heavier and contained many more neurons than counterparts without the disorder, US researchers said Tuesday.

The study, while small, suggests that brain overgrowth may be occurring in the womb, according to the findings published in the November 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers examined the brains of seven autistic boys, age two to 16, most of whom had died by drowning. The 16-year-old's cause of death was undetermined and one eight-year-old died of muscle cancer.

When they compared them to a control group of six boys without autism who died in accidents, they found that the brains of autistic boys had 67 percent more neurons in the prefrontal cortex and were nearly 18 percent heavier than normal brain weight for age.

"Because cortical neurons are not generated in postnatal life, this pathological increase in neuron numbers in autistic children indicates prenatal causes," the study said.

The researchers suggested that "faulty prenatal cell birth or maintenance may be involved in the development of autism."

The prefrontal cortex is where language and communication is based, as well as behaviors such as mood, attention, and social ability. Typically, autistic children have difficulty in these areas.

However, more research is needed to confirm the link, and to determine if and how brain differences may be tied to the severity of an autistic person's symptoms.

"Factors that normally organize the brain appear to be disrupted," said an accompanying editorial by Janet Lainhart of the University of Utah and Nicholas Lange of the Harvard University Schools of Medicine and Public Health.

Previous studies have suggested that clinical signs of autism tend to coincide with a period of abnormal brain and head growth that usually becomes apparent at nine to 18 months of age, according to the article.

Autism includes a wide spectrum of developmental differences and may range from mild social awkwardness to complete inability to communicate, repetitive movements, sensitivity to certain lights and sounds, and behavioral problems.

As many as one in 110 children is diagnosed with autism. The disorder is three to four times more common in boys than in girls, according to the advocacy group Autism Speaks which helped fund the study.

Other funding came from Cure Autism Now, The Emch Foundation, the Simons Foundation, the Thursday Club Juniors, and the University of California San Diego - National Institutes of Health Autism Center of Excellence.


Taken from; source article is below:
Autistic brains are heavier, with more neurons: study

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