Second-Ever Voice Box Transplant Recipient Talks to ABC News

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DAVIS, Calif.) -- Thanks to a rare and difficult transplant surgery, the once voiceless Brenda Jensen has been given a new larynx, a new voice and a new lease on life.

When an accident with a ventilation tube left Jensen's vocal chords paralyzed 12 years ago, she thought she never would be able to speak again on her own.

With the aid of a mechanical larynx that she would hold to her throat, she could communicate. But the voice was robotic and her paralyzed voice box necessitated that she keep a permanent breathing tube in her throat that prevented her from ever going underwater or even taking a shower.

"The surgery had a lot of risk," she said. "I could have lost feeling in my face, movement in my eyes. I could have been not able to eat or swallow again. But I wanted to talk again and get the [tube] out of my neck."

After the 18-hour operation in October that replaced her larynx, trachea, and thyroid gland, Jensen said she now is "talking up a storm" and looking forward to the last stage in the process when the tube in her throat can be removed.

The procedure, which was done at the UC Davis Medical Center in California, is one of the most complex transplantations because surgeons must reconnect not only blood vessels but microscopic nerves needed for the coordinated movements of breathing, swallowing and speaking.

Now, three months later, Jensen said her "voice improves every day."

"It's been a long road and a rough road, but every minute of it was worth it," she said. "Now when I talk, my friends who know me from way back say they can hear me in there. I heard myself on a recording the other day and I was amazed."

"We are absolutely delighted with the results of this extraordinary case," Dr. Gregory Farwell, lead surgeon for the transplant, said in a press release.

Jensen, who is also a kidney-pancreas transplant recipient, is the second patient to ever receive a larynx transplant. The first was performed at the Cleveland Clinic in 1998 on Tim Heidler, then 40.

The procedure is so rare not only because of the difficulty involved, but because it requires the patient to be on a lifetime of immuno-suppressing drugs to prevent the rejection of the donor tissue. Because Jensen is already on these meds for her donor kidney and pancreas, she was a uniquely apt candidate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fat-Fighting Fads Through the Ages

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- In his book, Letter on Corpulence, William Banting describes his struggle with obesity and his successful weight loss with a version of the Atkins diet made popular in the '70s.

"The items from which I was advised to abstain as much as possible were: bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer and potatoes, which had been the main (and I thought, innocent) elements of my existence," Banting wrote.
The book was published in 1864.

The Library of Congress dug up Banting's book and a host of magazine advertisements from the 1940s and '50s in a joint effort with Weight Watchers to find lessons in past weight loss campaigns that can be used to address the ongoing obesity epidemic.

Roughly one-third of adult men and women in the U.S. are obese, according to a Jan. 14 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. And half of American adults are at risk for developing diabetes or pre-diabetes by 2020 if they don't lose weight.

"We certainly have a dual challenge going on here, in that we see the obesity numbers and then, after a lag of six years, we see an influx of type 2 diabetes," said Ann Albright, Ph.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's diabetes translation division.

Albright joined a panel of experts, which included Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientific officer at Weight Watchers International, at the Library of Congress in Washington Wednesday.

"Without understanding the history of weight loss, it's difficult to move forward," Miller-Kovach said.

Ads for "bile beans" and bath salts that could transform fat into "strength-giving blood and muscle" show companies have been marketing fad diets and bogus weight loss products for decades.

"We're always looking for a magic bullet," said Lisa Cimperman, a registered dietician at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. "We don't want to do the work."

An ad for the Graybar Stimulator -- developed in the '20s and "a bargain in health" for only $59.50 -- shows people have always been willing to spend money on a quick fix.

"There's a perceived value. We think: 'If it's expensive, it must work,'" said Cimperman. "It's easier to spend money on a product than it is to go for a run."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Connecticut Gives Non-Genetic Parents Legal Rights

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- During a two-year legal battle, Anthony and Shawn Raftopol, Americans who live in Holland, worried that only one of the men was the legal parent of their young twin boys.

The gay couple married legally in Massachusetts in 2008.  Their twins, Sebastiann and Lukas, now two years old, were born in Connecticut through in-vitro fertilization with a donor egg and a surrogate mother.

Anthony Raftopol was the biological father and, under family law, had full parental rights.  But when the couple tried to obtain a birth certificate, also naming Shawn, they were told he had no legal claim to the children.

But the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled this week that Shawn Raftopol, 40, has parenting rights, even thought he is not the biological father, because the couple had a valid surrogacy agreement.  The court rejected the state's argument that the co-parent would have to go through a second-parent adoption proceeding in order to be listed on the birth certificates.

The decision will have far-reaching ramifications for other couples -- gay and straight -- who choose to have their children through surrogacy.

After the birth, Connecticut's Department of Public Health refused to allow the names of both fathers to appear on the birth certificate.  The Supreme Court's ruling affirmed a lower court's order confirming their parentage and requiring the state to issue corrected birth certificates, addressing a new and emerging area of law.

Two partners who sign a surrogacy agreement in Connecticut can now have both their names on the birth certificate, even without a genetic link.  Intended parents can get immediate recognition without any other action, even before the birth of the child.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Steve Jobs' Cancer Treatment in Switzerland Experimental, Effective

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Recent media reports have begun to shed more light on Steve Jobs' medical condition and the treatment he's believed to have sought overseas.

According to Fortune magazine, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple, Inc, who is currently on medical leave, flew to Switzerland in 2009 to receive a treatment for neuroendocrine cancer that isn't yet approved in the U.S.  The Wall Street Journal reported Jobs also had a liver transplant that year.

Fortune said it learned about the unpublicized trip to Switzerland from former Apple director Jerry York, who died in 2010.

In 2004, doctors found that Jobs had a pancreatic neuroendocrine islet cell tumor, which is very different from the more well-known pancreatic cancer that took the life of actor Patrick Swayze in 2009.

Neuroendocrine cancers affect cells throughout the body that secrete hormones.  The tumors can cause the secretion of either too much hormone or not enough.  They are relatively rare, but more and more new cases are being diagnosed, and experts attribute that trend to better recognition of these tumors.

Experts say the treatment Jobs underwent is an experimental procedure called peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT).  It involves delivering radiation to tumor cells by attaching one of two radioactive isotopes to a drug that mimics somatostatin, the hormone that regulates the entire endocrine system and the secretion of other hormones.

Specialists who treat neuroendocrine cancers say PRRT is very effective, but because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn't yet approved it, patients who want the treatment typically head to Europe for it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Scientists Study Bedbug Genome for Weaknesses

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- As the war on bedbugs wears on, scientists try to understand the invasive pests so they can kill the suckers.  Now, Ohio State University researchers have conducted the first genetic study to identify pesticide-resistant genes the bugs carry.  It may lead to new ways of controlling the bugs in the future.

"Right now, these studies are still preliminary and only scratching the surface of the bedbug genome," said Omprakash Mittapalli, Ph.D., assistant professor of entomology at Ohio Agricultural and Development Center and corresponding author of the study.  "But bedbugs could be a lot more complicated than previously thought."

Mittapalli and his team analyzed laboratory-reared bedbugs vulnerable to insecticides, and compared them to pesticide-exposed bedbugs found in a local apartment in 2009 and 2010.  Researchers identified more than 35,000 expressed sequence tags, tiny portions of a gene that can be used to help identify unknown genes and map their positions within the genome.

"The genetic bases for these genes could enable us to formulate newer development strategies that may be more effective than what we have right now," said Mittapalli.  "But a lot more studies need to be done, not only to identify candidate genes, but also to get a better understanding of the biology of the insect."

The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, found that there were differences in a gene, known as CYP9, between the bedbugs exposed to pesticides and the non-exposed bedbugs.  In other words, scientists say bedbugs may be genetically resistant to the pesticides currently used to get rid of them.

"If we can suppress the expression of that gene and see if bedbugs are still able to overcome the pesticide, then we'll be able to see that that gene is involved in overcoming pesticide resistance," said Mittapalli.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA to Improve Premarket Review of Medical Devices

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SILVER SPRING, Md.) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced plans Wednesday to improve the most common path to market for medical devices. The agency revealed its plan consisting of 25 actions to implement during 2011.

Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), hopes these new actions will result in "a smarter medical device program that supports innovation, keeps jobs here at home and brings important, safe and effective technologies to patients quickly."

Key measures of the plan include establishing a new Center Science Council of senior FDA experts who will ensure timely and consistent decision making based on science, new guidance that will increase the efficiency of the premarket review process, and a recommendation of a suitable time for submission of clinical data for premarket review.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Researchers Link Periodontal Health to Respiratory Illnesses

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- New research published in the Journal of Periodontology suggests that periodontal disease may increase risk for respiratory infections such as chronic pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia. 

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease which affects gum tissue and other structures supporting the teeth.  Respiratory infections like pneumonia or COPD occur when bacteria from the upper throat are inhaled into the lower respiratory tract.  Researchers infer that oral pathogens associated with periodontal disease increase the risk of developing respiratory illnesses.

Donald S. Clem, DDS, the president of the American Academy of Periodontology, emphasized the importance of proper oral care to prevent or treat the development of periodontal disease.

"By working with your dentist or periodontist, you may actually be able to prevent or diminish the progression of harmful diseases such as pneumonia or COPD," he said.  "This study provides yet another example of how periodontal health plays a role in keeping other systems of the body healthy."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kidneys Can Travel Long Distances, Survive Long Hours

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BALTIMORE) – A new study suggests that kidneys can be transported across the country and still be as viable for transplant as those who remain in the same hospital.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine studied 56 kidneys that traveled an average of 792 miles and spent an average of 7.6 hours outside of the body.

"There was no difference in how well the kidneys functioned compared to those transplanted immediately from someone in a nearby operating room in the same hospital," Dr. Dorry L. Segev, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said.

The news could allow an expansion in kidney exchanges that allow donors to give a kidney to someone else in exchange for one that is a match for their loved one.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stents Could be Used in Stroke Victims

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MIAMI) – New research suggests that stents, in addition to opening clogged heart arteries, can help clear blockage in the brain after a stroke, reports Healthday News.

Researchers at the Baptist Cardiac and Vascular Institute in Miami say that if traditional stroke treatments fail, stents can unblock the arteries of the brain and increase the survival rate for stroke victims.

"The bottom line is that stroke is a deadly condition," said study lead author Dr. Italo Linfante. "Up to 10 years ago it was a death sentence. Yet now if you go to the hospital early enough with a stroke there are several ways to be treated."

Linfante says current treatments are about 60 percent successful in opening arteries, while stents could bring that figure up to 95 percent.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Website Offers Medication Translations for World Travelers 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(RADNOR, Penn.) – World travelers will now have more help identifying their medications in other countries.

Global health and safety services company HTH Worldwide has expanded a mobile and online translation guide to ensure that travelers get the same medication there were prescribed at home as drug names can vary by country.

The company has recently expanded, an online medication database, to include 28 of the world’s most visited countries. Recently, translations have been added for those visiting South Korea and South Africa.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio