Entries in University of Pennsylvania (3)


Woman Who Lost Her Hands and Feet Receives Double Hand Transplant

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- A young woman who lost her hands and feet to an infection about four years ago is recuperating after undergoing a double hand transplant.

“The patient is doing extremely well,” said Dr. L. Scott Levin, who led the team of doctors. “She’s progressing very well through rehab and she has gained significant independence with her gestures. She’s able to wipe a tear and scratch her nose. These are huge milestones.”

The woman, described only as being in her late 20s, has asked to remain anonymous while she recovers.

University of Pennsylvania doctors performed the double hand transplant in September, making her one of only 60 people in the world who has received such state-of-the-art transplantation.

“Our main hope with transplants like this one is that the hands will, over time, function better than prostheses,” said Levin, director of the Penn Hand Transplant Program who was aided in the operation by 12 surgeons.  

During the nearly 12-hour surgery, doctors connected the forearm bones with steel plates. Veins and arteries were connected, and muscles and tendons were then stitched together before skin was then closed, ABC News’ Philadelphia affiliate, WPVI-TV, reported.

Matching a patient for a hand transplant can be quite difficult, Levin told ABC News.  The skin type, age, gender and size of the hands and arms must be the correct match in order for doctors to move forward with the procedure. Doctors also must evaluate the will of the patient, family and social support, emotional stability and understanding the immunosuppression that results after transplants.

Transplant patients take immunosuppressants to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new limb or organ. While the new body part is usually worth the post-procedure risks, a new study from the National Cancer Institute found that transplant recipients are at double the risk of getting cancer than the general population.

It was not immediately known whether the patient could also be a candidate for a double foot transplant.

“The first kidney transplant was performed in 1954 and here we are, 57 years later, transplanting hands and arms and faces and legs,” said Levin. “I think we’re on the verge of an entirely new dimension of transplantation. It’s really the frontier of surgical technology.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Scientists to Find a Cure to Male Balding in 10 Years?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- There is new research supporting the hopes of 50 million American men: they might be able to get their hair back. The secret to a baldness breakthrough just might be hidden in the scalp.

Researchers originally thought that men who were balding must have fewer of the necessary stem cells that produce hair. They were stunned to learn that the number of cells in bald men was actually the same as in men with full heads of hair.

"We were surprised to find a totally normal number of stem cells in the hair follicles in the bald scalp," Dr. George Cotsarelis, the chairman of the dermatology department at the University of Pennsylvania said. "So this raised hope to people that we can come up with a way of activating these stem cells."

Scientists say, with those stem cells in the scalp already, all that needs to happen is to get those cells to produce the secondary cells that produce hair.

Stem cells produce progenitor cells, or so-called workhouse cells.

"If we figure out a way to wake up those stem cells, get them to make hair for progenitor cells, that would go a long way toward developing a treatment," Dr Cotsarelis told ABC News.

Researchers predict they'll be able to do that within a decade. But until then, millions of customers will be left waiting, and spending.

An estimated $3.5 billion is already spent on hopes for new hair such as Rogaine and Hair Club for Men.

This is no surprise, considering a man has a 50 percent chance of experiencing hair loss by his 50th birthday.

´╗┐Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Weight Training Helps Breast Cancer Survivors 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- Just as doctors now know heart attack and back pain patients can benefit from physical activity during recovery, a study published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association finds breast cancer survivors may benefit from pumping iron after surgery. ´╗┐

The study, performed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, shows that breast cancer survivors who participated in a supervised, slowly progressive weight training program after undergoing surgery did not develop the painful, arm-swelling condition known as lymphedema -- and, in fact, may have even reduced or prevented the complication.

The researchers placed 154 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the previous five years, and who had had at least two lymph nodes removed but did not have lymphedema, into two randomly assigned groups. The first group was supervised by a personal trainer who led them through a 13-week weight lifting program, which they continued for another nine months at home. The second group didn't exercise.

By the end of the one-year study, the weight lifters had cut their risk of developing the condition by 35 percent. Only 11 percent of the group developed lymphedema, compared to 17 percent of those in the non-exercising group. Among women who had the most aggressive surgery, with five or more lymph nodes removed, the impact of the weightlifting intervention was even greater -- a nearly 70 percent risk reduction. Twenty-two percent of inactive participants developed lymphedema, compared to just 7 percent in the exercising group.

"Women have been told for decades that they should not do anything with the affected limb," said the study's lead author, Dr. Kathryn Schmitz, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and a member of Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. "Our work is showing that women who have had lymph nodes removed and have not developed cancer are less likely to develop arm swelling over time if they slowly and progressively increase the capacity of their damaged limb to withstand the stresses of real life like lifting their purse, moving heavy boxes or carrying a child."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio