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Tuesday
Apr302013

Toddler Born Without a Windpipe Gets Artificial Trachea

Courtesy Jim Carlson/Saint Francis Medical Center(PEORIA, Ill.) -- In a groundbreaking feat of science and surgery, a Korean toddler born without a windpipe received an artificial trachea made from her own stem cells.

Hannah Warren, 2½, was born with tracheal agenesis, a rare and usually fatal birth defect. She had spent her entire life in a neonatal intensive care unit in a hospital in Seoul, South Korea, unable to breathe, swallow, eat or drink on her own. But after a nine-hour marathon operation to implant a windpipe made of nanofiber mesh coated with her own bone marrow cells, the girl in pigtails finally had her first lollipop.

"All we have ever wanted since Hannah was born was to be able to bring her home and be a regular family," Hannah's father, Darryl Warren, said in a statement from the Children's Hospital of Illinois, where an international team of doctors took on Hannah's unusual case.

Hannah is the first child to receive a tissue-engineered trachea devoid of any donor cells, according to the Peoria, Ill.-based hospital. Lead surgeon Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, professor of regenerative surgery at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said the transplant crosses frontiers by eliminating the need for a human donor and a lifetime of immunosuppressant drugs.

"The most amazing thing, which for a little girl is a miracle, is that this transplant has not only saved her life, but it will eventually enable her to eat, drink and swallow, even talk, just like any other normal child," Macchiarini said in a statement. "She will go from being a virtual prisoner in a hospital bed to running around and playing with her sister and enjoying a normal life, which is a beautiful thing."

Hannah is still recovering with the support of pulmonologists, respiratory therapists and speech therapists, according to a hospital statement.

"Words cannot express our thanks to everyone who has helped make this dream a reality," said Canadian-born Darryl Warren, who was accompanied to the United States by his Korean wife, Young-Mi, and their 4-year-old daughter, Dana. "We know one day soon we will get to make that trip home."

Macchiarini and his team have transplanting artificial tracheas since 2008. In July 2012, 13-year-old Ciaran Finn-Lynch became the first child to receive a donor trachea stripped of cells and re-seeded with his own. But Hannah is the youngest patient to receive an artificial trachea, and the first child to receive an organ made solely from synthetic materials and her own cells.

"Hannah's case is a great example of how the international community can work together to save a child's life," co-surgeon Dr. Mark Holterman, professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, said in a statement.

At a press conference Tuesday, Hannah's parents expressed tearful gratitude to all the doctors who helped save their daughter.

"It's been a long journey for her," Darryl Warren said of Hannah's battle since birth and the trip from Seoul. "We're just so blessed that she was able to get this unbelievable opportunity. She really only had one chance, and now she got it. She's here with us. And we couldn't ask for anything else."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr302013

Professor Asks If Eating Boogers Boosts Immunity

Design Pics/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Scott Napper has a hypothesis: What if his daughters’ tendency to pick their noses and eat the dried nasal mucus -- their boogers -- actually had some health benefits?

Napper, who teaches biochemistry at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, told the CBC that he’d wondered whether the “sugary” taste of the dried mucus was meant to signal to the body that consuming pathogens caught in the mucus was a good thing.

“I’ve got two beautiful daughters, and they spend an amazing amount of time with their fingers up their nose,” Napper told CBC.  ”And without fail, it goes right into their mouth afterwards.  Could they just be fulfilling what we’re truly meant to do?”

The hygiene hypothesis has long blamed allergies, asthma and autoimmune disorders on a lack of exposure to certain pathogens early in life.  Napper contends that eating boogers exposes people -- and their immune systems -- to the pathogens inside.

Napper said he uses his hypothesis to engage his first-year biochemistry students.  He told the CBC that he’s already been approached by people looking to participate in a study.

But Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, said it’s not likely that eating boogers would offer much additional immune system support, because people already unconsciously swallow nasal mucus.

“It happens naturally all the time, and the cells in your own mucous membranes are exposed to whatever is in the mucus constantly,” he said.  “Because it’s part of your own body fluids, you swallow nasal secretions all the time during the day and while you’re asleep.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr302013

Children with Autism 'Fall Off the Cliff' After Graduation

Courtesy Nan Garber(NEW YORK) -- For four years, Janet Mino has worked with her young men, preparing them to graduate from JFK High School, a place that caters to those with special needs in Newark, N.J.

All six of them have the severest form of autism, struggling to communicate, but Mino's high-energy style evokes a smile, a hug and real progress.

Much of the work that she does may ultimately unravel because after these young men earn their diplomas, their future options are bleak -- lingering at home, being placed in an institution or living on the streets.

New Jersey has the highest rate of autism in the nation and some of the best intervention resources.  But after graduation, programs are scarce.

"They are adults longer than they are children," Mino, 46, told ABC News.  "We need to give them a light.  It's up to us and up to me."

"There's nothing -- nothing out there," she said.

Mino is the subject of a documentary, Best Kept Secret, that recently premiered at the Independent Film Festival in Boston and will be shown at this weekend's Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey.

Mino's efforts to find resources for her students are Herculean in a school that is touted as the state's "best kept secret."  Her efforts are exacerbated by poverty and lack of funding, but her classroom is a happy place as she finds ways to reinforce that they are capable and worthy.

"I look at it as a challenge -- if I can get them as independent as possible," she said.  "They are so wonderful.  They make you laugh. ... They just think differently.

"Some people think that because they are nonverbal and can't communicate, they can't understand, but that's not true.  From my experience, they read us better than we read them," Mino said.

Director Samantha Buck and producer Danielle DiGiacomo, who is manager of video distribution at the Orchid, follow Mino and her students in their hardscrabble lives for 18 months leading up to their 2012 graduation.

"Autism is part of who we are as a society," said Buck, 30.  "Across the country, young adults who turn 21 are pushed out of the school system.  They often end up with nowhere to go; they simply disappear from productive society.  This is what educators call 'falling off the cliff.'"

This year alone, 50,000 children with autism will turn 18, according to Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who has sponsored federal legislation to provide funding for adult programs.  Within two years of high school, less than half of those with autism spectrum disorder have paying jobs -- the lowest rate of any disabled group.

"Meanwhile, adults with ASD run the highest risk of total social disengagement," Menendez told ABC News in an email.  "By the time they are in their early 20s, they risk losing the daily living skills they developed as children through supportive services."

"Their families still need support," he said.  "The challenges they face will not disappear but only grow greater, and ultimately we will all pay the price for that."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr292013

Task Force Releases New HIV Screening Recommendations

ABC News Radio(ROCKVILLE, Md.) -- New guidelines about HIV testing from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force may come as a surprise to some. The task force now strongly recommends expanding testing for the virus behind AIDS to include everyone ages 15 to 65.
 
An estimated 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, with annual incidence of the disease at approximately 50,000 cases, according to the task force -- an independent panel of non-government experts in health prevention.

Writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the authors say ending the AIDS epidemic begins with diagnosing individuals. The group found that, under its less broad guidelines issued in 2005, about 20 percent of HIV-infected people went undiagnosed.
 
Like the previous guidelines, the new ones stress HIV testing for all pregnant women -- even those in labor, if they have not been screened. This dramatically reduces the rate of mother-to-child transmission.
 
The group also suggests annual re-testing for those engaged in high-risk behavior.
 
The goal of expanding the screening recommendations is to inform all HIV-infected persons of their status so they'll start treatment and avoid the risks of passing the virus to others.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr292013

Catherine Zeta-Jones Seeks Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Donna Ward/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Catherine Zeta-Jones has checked into a health care facility for what TMZ.com reports is treatment for her bipolar disorder.

A rep for the actress tells ABC News, “Catherine has proactively checked into a health care facility.  Previously Catherine has said that she is committed to periodic care in order to manage her health in an optimum manner.”

TMZ reports the actress entered a treatment center on Monday to begin a 30-day program.

A bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy and activity levels, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Though not easily recognizable at first, symptoms can include extreme changes in energy, sleep and behavior during distinct periods called "mood episodes."

While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, it can be effectively treated, according to the NIMH website. Mood changes, however, can still occur even with proper treatment, which can include medication and psychotherapy.  NIMH says that consistent work with a doctor to facilitate open discussion about patient concerns and choices often boosts treatment effectiveness.

Zeta-Jones previously sought treatment for the condition in spring 2011. Her rep released a statement at the time saying the star, “made the decision to check into a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat her Bipolar II disorder.”
 
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr292013

Psychiatrist Wants Accused Bomber's Brain Studied

Glenn DePriest/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- A Boston psychiatrist wants the brain of slain marathon bomb suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev studied like a crime scene to look for evidence that his boxing career may have left him brain damaged and possibly prone to depression and aggression.

Tsarnaev, the eldest of two sibling suspects in the April 15 attacks that killed three people and injured more than 200, died four days later in a shootout with police. His bullet-riddled body has yet to be claimed, and Dr. Michael Craig Miller claims Tsarnaev’s brain could hold important clues.

"There are political motives, social motives, cultural motives, but one that gets less attention is the biological basis for all this," said Miller, a psychiatrist at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where Tsarnaev died and his younger brother, Dzhohkar Tsarnaev, was treated for bullet wounds.

In an op-ed published in the Boston Globe, Miller argued that neuroscientists should be given the chance to examine Tsarnaev's brain.

"This suspect's brain may teach us a small but important bit about the biology of violence," he wrote.

Miller, a former Watertown, Mass., resident who is also an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said Tsarnaev's boxing career could have triggered chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to concussions. Researchers at Boston University have found evidence of CTE in the brains of 68 deceased military veterans and athletes, including eight boxers.

"Our local experts should get the chance to study Tamerlan Tsarnaev's brain. And they should study it as closely as our forensic experts have studied a few blocks along Boylston Street," Miller wrote.

CTE is associated with impaired judgment, impulse control problems and aggression, according to Boston University's Center for the Study of Chronic Encephalopathy. The condition, which shares symptoms with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease, is also marked by memory loss, confusion and depression.

It's the second time in four months that the brain of an alleged killer has become the topic of such interest and speculation. In January 2013, one month after Adam Lanza opened fire at a Connecticut elementary school killing 26 people, including 20 children, and then himself, a medical examiner said he found nothing unusual in the 20-year-old's brain.

"It's a fishing expedition," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Wayne Carver II told the Connecticut Post of the Lanza brain study.

But Miller described the case of Charles Whitman, who in 1966 killed his mother, his wife, and 17 strangers at the University of Texas in Austin. The day before, he wrote a note requesting an autopsy of his brain – an autopsy that revealed a tumor pressing on his amygdala, an almond-shaped brain structure that regulates emotion.

The pathologist ultimately decided that the tumor had no bearing on the case, and that Whitman was "a psychopath of the worst kind," according to Miller's op-ed.

"Even though there's a biological basis for our actions, we're still responsible for our actions," Miller said, adding that Tsarnaev might have "a perfectly a healthy brain" or evidence of disease that fails to fully explain his actions. "But it's in his brain that these ideas were formed. And so it would be interesting to look at that organ, where those ideas began."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr292013

A 10-Minute Solution to Erasing Tired Eyes

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Heavy bags under the eyes are an issue many women face, but there is a treatment that promises to eliminate the problem in just 10 minutes.

By injecting filler into the eye bags, cosmetic surgeons say they are able to quickly fix that troublesome area under the eyes -- known as a tear trough -- with an in-office procedure that does not require anesthesia.

“Ten minutes later [post-filler], they [patients] come out and they don’t have dark circles under their eyes,” said Dr. Alexander Rivkin, a Los Angeles based-facial cosmetic surgeon.  “It lasts for two, three, four years.”

“It really is the fountain of youth for the eyes,” Dr. Rivkin said.

ABC's Good Morning America followed four women -- Taryn Piana, Iya Ritchie, Esther Lira and Melissa Beretich -- each seeking that “fountain of youth,” who decided to try the tear trough treatment themselves.

“What I’m hoping to come out with is to be able to go back to what I was doing four to five years ago and not wear makeup,” Beretich, 40, said prior to her procedure with New York City-based plastic surgeon, Dr. Steven Pearlman.

Ten minutes later, Beretich said she “absolutely” saw a difference in her eyes and felt no pain at all.

“What this treatment is doing is camouflaging the bags,” Pearlman said of the $600 to $1,000 treatment.

“For people who only have mild [eye] bags, it’s a way to stave off the need for surgery by filling in that hollow,” he said.  “It’s not reducing the bag but you’re making it less visible.”

Lira, one of Rivkin’s patients who tried the treatment, said she was never able to cover her bags with makeup that looked natural. After her treatment, Lira, 42, like Beretich, said she could “see a difference.”

Ritchie, 40, and Piana, 27, both of whom worked with Rivkin, were also pleased with the results of their trough treatment. “It’s awesome,” Piana said.

Surgeons say the side effects of the treatment -- like puffy eyes and possible bruising -- will fade away within one week.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr292013

Arm Lifts Skyrocketing Among Women

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- American women seem to care much more about their upper arms' appearance as evidenced by new statistics released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

The organization says arm lifts in women have jumped 4,378 percent since 2000, when more than 300 women had the procedure done.  By comparison, more than 15,000 women opted for a brachioplasty in 2012.

The procedure "involves removing the excess skin and fat from the upper arm," Dr. David Reath, chairman of the ASPS public education committee, explains.

He says most people see the need for such surgery after they have lost a lot of weight.

"When you lose weight and you lose fat volume you don't lose the extra skin so basically the skin -- and it could be of the arms, could be of the abdomen or other areas -- will just hang there and be very unsightly," Reath says.

The biggest concern with an arm lift, Reath notes, is the fact that it leaves a scar.

"There's no question that this operation is a trade off between an improvement in the overall shape of the arm and a scar that you're left with because the scar will run from the elbow up to the axilla or armpit," he says.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr292013

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Medical Care Is Covered at Federal Facility

FBI(NEW YORK) -- After reportedly suffering injuries to his hands, neck and legs after a dramatic showdown with police last week, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhohkar Tsarnaev received nearly a week of medical treatment at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and has subsequently been moved to the Federal Medical Center Devens, where his medical treatment will continue.

Since he is in federal custody, it's unlikely Tsarnaev or his family will have to pay for his medical care, as U.S. Federal Marshals are responsible for the health care of any inmate in their custody.

"The transformative moment is when he's transferred into custody of the federal government," said Bradley W. Brockmann, executive director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at Brown University.  "At that point, they would be responsible for the hospital bill payments."

During the 2012 fiscal year, federal medical referral centers spent an average of $51,430 per inmate annually, or $140.52 per day.

The Federal Medical Center Devens is one of six medical referral centers designated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to provide specialized health care services to federal inmates and is located less than 40 miles from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where Tsarnaev was initially taken after his capture.

Currently, the facility is treating 1,044 inmates in the medical center with an additional 127 inmates in a minimum security satellite camp.  Inmates are separated according to their security level.  Those who require the highest security are visited by medical personnel as they are confined to a cell that contains little besides a toilet and a bed.

According to John Colautti, the public information office for the Federal Medical Center Devens, the facility has not instituted additional security measures for Tsarnaev.

"We're operating as we would on an everyday basis," said John Colautti.  "We have individuals here that are high security and after [the suspect leaves] we would still have individuals that are high security."

Colautti said officials do consider other factors when an inmate is housed, including if they are violent or if they are an escape risk.

Although there are a few prisoners who are held for long periods of time at the minimum security camp, the majority of inmates are there to receive medical care.

It is not clear when Tsarnaev would be eligible to be transferred to another facility.  The 19-year-old was last reported to be in fair condition at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, but no such classifications are used at the Federal Medical Center Devens.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr292013

Video Games Seek to Help Young Patients Fight Cancer

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Video games are often thought of as brain-draining time wasters, but a non-profit group in California is using technology to help improve human health.

HopeLab is out Monday with Re-Mission 2, a set of video games about killing cancer in the body.

The series is "designed to help young cancer patients through their treatment," says Richard Tate with HopeLab.

He says the first set of games, Re-Mission 1, proved to be a success.  Young patients were shown to stick to their medications more consistently after playing the games seven years ago.

"It seemed to affect the way players thought about their cancer," Tate says.

The new games are free and available online.  Visit www.re-mission2.org to learn more about them.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio