Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
A hand transplant program is under development at Boston Children’s Hospital, and researchers say it will lead the field in offering face transplants and other radical surgeries that can greatly improve the quality of life for children. More from NBC News:
The move shows the growing willingness to do transplants to enhance a patient’s life rather than to save it as donated hearts, livers and other organs have done in the past. More than 70 hands and at least 20 faces have been transplanted in adults, and doctors say it’s clear these operations are safe enough to offer to children in certain cases, too.
“We feel that this is justifiable,” said Dr. Amir Taghinia, who will lead the pediatric hand program at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“Children will potentially benefit even more from this procedure than adults” because they regrow nerves more quickly and have more problems from prosthetic hands, he said.
Only one hand transplant is known to have been done in a child — a baby in Malaysia in 2000. Because the donor was a twin who died at birth, her sister did not need to take drugs to prevent rejection.
That’s the main risk in offering children hand transplants — the immune-suppressing drugs carry side effects and may raise the risk of cancer over the long term.
However, one independent expert thinks the gains may be worth it in certain cases.
“We understand so much more about immune suppression” that it’s less of a risk to put children on the drugs, said Dr. Simon Horslen, medical director of the liver and intestine transplant program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “This is never going to be done as an emergency procedure, so the families will have plenty of opportunity to weigh the options.”
Also, a hand can be removed if rejection occurs, and that would not leave the child worse off than before the transplant, Horslen said.
Image: Child’s hand in hospital, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
A 2-year-old girl who was born without a windpipe has a new chance at life, thanks to a new windpipe made from the girl’s own stem cells. PEOPLE.com has the story:
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Hannah Warren has been unable to breathe, eat, drink or swallow on her own since she was born in South Korea in 2010. Until the operation at a central Illinois hospital, she had spent her entire life in a hospital in Seoul. Doctors there told her parents there was no hope and they expected her to die.
The stem cells came from Hannah’s bone marrow, extracted with a special needle inserted into her hip bone. They were seeded in a lab onto a plastic scaffold, where it took less than a week for them to multiply and create a new windpipe.
About the size of a 3-inch tube of penne pasta, it was implanted April 9 in a nine-hour procedure.
Early signs indicate the windpipe is working, Hannah’s doctors announced Tuesday, although she is still on a ventilator. They believe she will eventually be able to live at home and lead a normal life.
“We feel like she’s reborn,” said Hannah’s father, Darryl Warren.
Thursday, September 20th, 2012
Two Swedish women who were in need of uterine transplants in order to become pregnant have reportedly successfully received the transplants courtesy of their mothers, who donated their uteruses to their daughters. The two women, who are both in their 30s, are without a uterus for different reasons; one had it removed years ago because of cervical cancer, the other was born without one. MSNBC.com reports:
Specialists at the University of Goteborg completed the surgery over the weekend without complications, but say they won’t consider the procedures successful unless the women achieve pregnancy after their observation period ends a year from now.
“We are not going to call it a complete success until this results in children,” said Michael Olausson, one of the Swedish surgeons told The Associated Press. “That’s the best proof.”
He said the daughters started in-vitro fertilization, or IVF, before the surgery.
IVF uses hormones to stimulate the ovaries, which the women already had, to produce eggs. Scientists would fertilize the eggs with sperm in a lab, before freezing the embryos. The frozen embryos would then be thawed and transferred if the women are in good health after the observation period, Olausson said. After a maximum of two pregnancies, the wombs will be removed again.
Image: Woman in surgery, via Shutterstock
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