February 18th, 2011
By: Mara Gay
The University of Southern California University Hospital has temporarily shut down its kidney transplant program after a patient in need of a transplant accidentally received a kidney designated for someone else.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the private Los Angeles hospital voluntarily halted transplants on Jan. 29 after realizing it had put the wrong organ into one of its patients. Bryan Stewart, a spokesman for OneLegacy, a program that facilitates transplants with the hospital, told the paper the error was implanting a kidney in the wrong patient. Stewart could not be immediately reached for comment by AOL News.
Stewart said the patient who received the wrong kidney survived through a stroke of luck: the donor kidney had the blood type O, which is universally accepted. The other patient received a kidney a few days later.
In a statement, the hospital simply said it suspended the program because of a “process error” and expects to resume transplants soon, possibly today. Safety “is the hospital’s number one concern,” the statement said, and “the hospital inactivated the program while clinical protocols are assessed and additional safeguards to the kidney transplant program are developed.”
The hospital said it is conducting an internal review of the program and is helping patients who choose to seek care elsewhere get added to wait lists at other hospitals.
“The review is expected to be complete by Feb. 18,” the statement read, “at which time the USC University Hospital Transplant Institute will consider reactivation of the kidney program.”
The USC hospital did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on the organ mix-up.
July 26, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
Popular social networking site Facebook is apparently good for a lot more than just chatting with friends and posting pictures. A recent Fox News article explains that many people in desperate need of transplant organs are finding quick matches through their connections on Facebook.
As far-fetched as it may initially sound, finding an organ donor through Facebook is not really all that crazy of an idea. Thousands of businesses, politicians, entrepreneurs, musicians and non-profit groups, use Facebook to network and promote themselves because they recognize the incredible reach and power of the site to spread important news quickly.
According to the report, roughly 84,000 Americans are waiting to receive a kidney transplants, and many have been waiting for years. Unable to find a donor the conventional way, some patients have turned to Facebook and successfully found donors.
Sarah Taylor, a 53-year-old woman diagnosed with renal failure for eight years, decided to post a message on Facebook one night to let people know about her desperate need for a kidney. She received responses from nearly 200 people, and found a great match from a high school friend who lived just two blocks away. The transplant was successful with no complications.
A similar situation occurred when 44-year-old Carlos Sanchez posted a message on Facebook about his need for a kidney transplant due to kidney failure from type-1 diabetes. Within two minutes, the mayor of his town responded to him, saying she would be a donor. The transplant was a success.
There are many other cases of patients who have successfully found organ donors through Facebook rather than conventional waiting lists. And having a live donor is typically far more successful than getting an organ from a cadaver like many transplant patients do.
June 17, 2010
By E. Huff
(NaturalNews) Following its 2008 declaration that the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) is a safe additive in food and beverage plastics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received criticism from consumer advocacy groups and others for neglecting scientific evidence that indicated the contrary. The agency reluctantly agreed to review its position and recently reversed its position, declaring that it now has concerns about the safety of BPA.
Several scientific studies have verified that BPA is a highly toxic endocrine disruptor that can impede proper reproductive function and lead to cardiovascular disease, liver problems, and diabetes. It is especially harmful during the early developmental stages because it hinders the proper development of organ tissues and glands and inhibits proper sexual maturity.
A 2009 Harvard University study found that people who drank from polycarbonate bottles containing BPA for just one week experienced a two-thirds increase of BPA in their urine. Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the study verified that the BPA used in containers leaches very easily into food and beverages, especially when heated.
June 15, 2010
By David Gutierrez
(NaturalNews) Many hospitals in the United States are tacitly participating in the illegal organ transplant industry by not scrutinizing potential donors too closely, experts worry.
The purchase or sale of organs is illegal in most countries, including the United States, but a chronic shortage of organs for transplant has led to a thriving international black market. Typically, poor donors (usually from Third World countries) are paid several thousand dollars for organs that are then resold for upwards of $100,000 to rich recipients, usually from the First World.
The arrests of 44 U.S. residents on organ trafficking charges in July marks the first documented case of the practice in the United States, and has raised concerns that hospitals here might be encouraging it.
April 29, 2010
by Kirsten Cole
Organ donation has become a vital way to save lives around the world, but a vast shortage of donors continues to mean people are losing their lives while on waiting lists.
But there is a unique proposal that could change all that.
New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky nearly lost his daughter, Willie, at 4 years old when she needed a kidney transplant, and again 10 years later when her second kidney failed.
“We have 10,000 New Yorkers on the list today waiting for organs. We import half the organs we transplant. It is an unacceptable failed system,” Brodsky said.
To fix that, Brodsky introduced a new bill in Albany that would enroll all New Yorkers as an organ donor, unless they actually opt out of organ donation. It would be the first law of its kind in the United States.
“Overseas, 24 nations have it. Israel has it. Others have it. And it works without a lot of controversy,” Brodsky said.
Currently one of the biggest obstacles to being a donor is while 9 out of 10 are favorable to it only 1 out of 10 is signed up to be a donor.
On Wednesday, the New York Organ Donor Network honored families who’ve donated the organs of loved ones with a planting ceremony at New York Botanical Gardens. Jean Carnevale had a timely talk about organ donation with her 27-year=old son before he died in a fatal car accident.
“Michael and I had a conversation two weeks prior on the way to a family member’s funeral,” Carnevale said.
And Emily Melendez and her siblings made the choice for their 68-year-old mother.
“Although I lost my mom, she lives on in three other people,” Melendez said.
“The thing about organ donor is we have the cure right now in our hands. It’s not like trying to cure cancer,” said Elaine Berg of the Organ Donor Network.
Legal experts said if the law is passed, it will likely face challenges in court from family members or some religious groups.
“I think it’s a little heavy handed. I think we should have the right to choose that,” said Rachel Rogers of Crown Heights.
But many are hoping this law will help people to make a choice — one way or the other.
Currently, you can make your organ donation wishes known by signing the back of your driver’s license, signing up online or through a health care proxy.
April 29, 2010
by Alicia Chang
People with a common, obesity-related liver disease that has no known treatment got a surprising benefit from vitamin E pills, researchers reported Wednesday.
It appears to be the first time that a vitamin supplement has been shown to help treat a major ailment not caused by a nutrient deficiency. However, doctors warned that this does not mean people should automatically take vitamin E since some research suggests it might raise the risk of other problems.
The latest study tested it for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Fat buildup can cause the liver to become inflamed and scarred over time and in severe cases, to fail.
The disease usually develops in people who are middle-aged and overweight or obese. Up to 5 percent of Americans have the most serious form of it, and as many as 20 percent have fat in their livers but no organ damage.
In the study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, 247 adults with advanced fatty liver disease were randomly assigned to take a high dose of vitamin E (800 international units), the diabetes drug Actos or dummy pills for nearly two years.
The vitamin and drug were tested because earlier research suggested liver cell deterioration and insulin resistance might be involved in the development of the disease.
Biopsies before and after treatment showed that liver function improved in 43 percent of those in the vitamin E group compared with 19 percent in the placebo group.
“In all honesty, I was surprised,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Arun Sanyal of Virginia Commonwealth University. “A vitamin has not been previously used to cure a serious disease” that is not caused by a deficiency.
Vitamin deficiency has been blamed for a range of health problems from rickets and osteoporosis from a lack of vitamin D to scurvy from not enough vitamin C.
Study participants on the diabetes drug Actos also improved, but to a lesser degree and with a drawback: gaining 10 pounds on average, which remained even after they stopped taking the drug. Four people who took vitamin E developed diabetes, but the study was too small to determine if the vitamin played any role.
The National Institutes of Health was the study’s main sponsor. A U.S. subsidiary of Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical provided the drug and California-based supplement maker Pharmavite supplied the vitamin E capsules. Sanyal, the lead researcher, has received consulting fees from Takeda and other drug companies.
Liver expert Dr. Sammy Saab at the University of California, Los Angeles, believes vitamin E could potentially become the initial treatment for advanced cases of the liver problem.
“For patients who are really at risk of progressive liver disease, I think it’s worthwhile. For the vast majority who just have fatty liver, I’m not sure it will help them at all,” said Saab, who had no role in the study.
Dr. Zobair Younossi, executive director of research at the nonprofit Inova Health System in Virginia, said people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease at the very least should make lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and exercising to shed the pounds.
While vitamin E may help certain people with obesity-related liver disease, “I wouldn’t get started on high-dose vitamin E without discussing it first with a doctor,” said Younossi, who has no connection to the research.
In recent years, hype over vitamin supplements in treating major diseases has not panned out. A 2008 study found that vitamins C and E pills do not ward off heart disease in men and vitamin E even appeared to raise the risk of bleeding strokes. Another study found the same supplements do not help prevent cancer in men.
February 22, 2010
By S.L. Baker
Gastroschisis is a birth defect in which the intestines, and sometimes other organs, develop outside the fetal abdomen and poke out through an opening in the abdominal wall. Long considered a rare occurrence, gastroschisis has mysteriously been on the rise over the last three decades. In fact, the incidence of the defect has soared, increasing two to four times in the last 30 years. But why?
Researchers think they’ve found the answer. The culprit behind the suffering of babies born with this condition appears to be the agricultural chemical atrazine. That’s the conclusion of a study just presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) held in Chicago.
Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle were alerted to a higher than normal number of cases in of the birth defect in babies born in eastern Washington. So they began investigating to see if the increased incidence was due to some kind of environmental exposure in that area.
“Our state has about two times the national average number of cases of gastroschisis,” Dr. Sarah Waller, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement to the media. “The life expectancy for fetuses with this diagnosis is better than 90 percent; however it requires delivery at a tertiary care center with immediate neonatal intervention which often separates families and can cause serious financial and emotional stress.”
The condition can lead to poor function of the bowel after delivery and potential long term feeding problems. Bottom line: babies with this birth defect must undergo the trauma of surgery right after birth. And while most survive, some babies with gastroschisis have significant damage to the bowel due to direct contact between the intestine and amniotic fluid or because the intestine was twisted. These infants may develop a condition known as “short gut” which can lead to stunted growth and a host of feeding and other problems.
For the new study, Dr. Waller and her research team went to work investigating all cases of live born infants with gastroschisis during the period between 1987 and 2006. They matched birth certificates with databases from the U.S. Geological Survey that revealed where agricultural spraying took place and what chemicals were used. It turns out the chemicals atrazine, nitrates, and 2, 4 dichlorophenoxyacetic acid were heavily sprayed in the area.
Of the 805 cases and 3,616 controls in the study, gastroschisis developed far more frequently among babies whose mothers lived less than 25 km from the site of high surface water that was specifically contaminated with one of the chemicals — atrazine. What’s more, the risk of gastroschisis was found to especially rise in babies of women who conceived in the spring, from March through May. Those are the months when use of the chemical is the most prevalent.
The problem with atrazine
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), atrazine is applied to crops (especially corn, sorghum, and sugarcane) before and after planting to control broadleaf and grassy weeds. It is used most heavily in the Midwest on agricultural crops but it is also applied to residential lawns, particularly in Florida and the Southeast.
Problems linked to atrazine have been in the news previously. Earlier research showed it causes sexual abnormalities in frogs and the chemical has also been linked to prostate cancer in workers at an atrazine manufacturing plant.
So why is it still widely used? Unfortunately, the EPA has done little to address the mounting evidence that atrazine is harmful to humans as well as animals. Last fall the agency announced it was going to start a new assessment of the chemical in 2010 that could take months to years to complete. In the meantime, tons of atrazine will continue to be sprayed on crops and lawns — and mothers and their unborn babies will continue to be exposed to this chemical now linked to a serious and potentially deadly birth defects.
February 11, 2010
By Ethan A. Huff
A new study published by the Mayo Clinic in the journal Archives of Dermatology has revealed that roughly half of all patients who undergo a heart transplant end up getting skin cancer within 15 years of the surgery. Among the 312 people evaluated in the study, 1,395 different skin cancers emerged following surgery.
Whenever a body part is surgically implanted, the body recognizes it as a foreign object and proceeds to attack it. Patients who undergo organ transplants usually have to take immune suppressant drugs for the rest of their lives in order to prevent the body from rejecting the organ. These drugs increase patients’ risk of developing cancer and other serious diseases.
The Mayo Clinic study evaluated what types of skin cancers emerged following a heart transplant and found that all sorts of skin cancers, from minor to fatal, afflicted patients. While relatively rare, researchers discovered that some patients developed malignant melanomas, the most serious type of skin cancer. One study participant died from malignant melanoma.
A 2005 study published in the journal CANCER revealed that patients who undergo kidney transplants are four times more prone to getting melanoma. As patients age, that risk continues to increase due to the long term immuno-suppressive action of the drugs. Other studies have found that organ transplant patients are at a higher of developing all cancers, not just skin cancer.
Many doctors are encouraging patients who have undergone transplant surgery to perform self evaluations on a regular basis to identify the presence of skin cancer. By finding it early, the majority of skin cancers can be eradicated. Some also recommended that post surgery patients be screened regularly to help catch a developing cancer as early as possible.
Amazingly, some experts believe that the increased cancer risk following surgery highlights the amazing success of contemporary transplant surgery techniques. Their logic concludes that since surgery prolongs a person’s life, those extra years allow additional time for future problems to materialize that would have otherwise been unable to.
While it may seem like a great success to have developed advanced ways of transplanting organs, many may argue that having to take potentially life-threatening drugs in order to keep the organs functioning is actually an ironic failure. Not every transplant patient will end up getting cancer but a great many will live out the rest of their days in poor health due to severe drug side effects.
January 15, 2010
San Fransisco Chronicle
The cartons of chocolate milk served in San Francisco Unified School District cafeterias will no longer contain the highly debated sweetener high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). A product containing sucrose will be offered to students beginning the first week in February.
Berkeley Farms, the dairy that supplies milk to SFUSD, decided to reformulate the chocolate milk due to multiple requests from the district’s Student Nutrition Director Ed Wilkins.
“Indeed there is a great deal of controversy regarding HFCS and its potential contributions to Type 2 Diabetes and childhood obesity,” Wilkins says. “The parents in this district have had major concerns about the additive for several years. I began working with our primary food and beverage suppliers a couple of years ago to eliminate or at least substantially limit HFCS in any products used in the SFUSD school meal program. I am grateful to Berkeley Farms for their proactive response to this important issue.”
Both plain and chocolate milk are available to kids who get lunch in the cafeteria in San Francisco public schools. As part of the National School Lunch Program, the district is required to provide two milk options, according to Wilkins. The district’s Student Nutrition & Physical Activity Committee has said that chocolate milk could be one of the two options, and the district made the choice to offer it.
While Student Nutrition Committee member Dana Woldow has concerns about the chocolate milk with sucrose still having too much added sweetener, she was happy to learn the news. “At least the concerns related specifically to HFCS have been eliminated,” Woldow says. “Just this week a study was released linking Monsanto’s genetically modified corn with organ damage in small mammals. Since most high fructose corn syrup is made from genetically modified corn, this is just another example of why parents are so opposed to this substance being added to their children’s food.”
HFCS is cheaper than sucrose, and so it has replaced sugar as the sweetener in many beverages and foods, from breads and cereals to yogurts and condiments. On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80 percent more HFCS than average, according to USA Today.
HFCS is highly controversial. Some people view it as a nutritional villain along the lines of trans-fat. Others argue that it’s no better or worse than sugar.
The actual research on high fructose corn syrup is fuzzy and insufficient, and a huge chunk of the money spent on researching HFCS has come from companies who make products with the ingredient. “But there’s more science coming out to say it’s an unhealthy ingredient,” says David Wallinga, a director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “The American Society of Nephrology recently came out with a study indicating that HFCS consumption increases the risk of developing hypertension.”
But while there’s a trickle of studies indicating that HFCS could be harmful, some experts are saying that the sweetener is no different from sucrose. They argue that HFCS is not poison and that it’s simply sugar in a liquid form. The body metabolizes HFCS and sucrose in the same way, some experts say.
While the debate over HFCS is sorted out and new studies get underway, the American Medical Association has decided that “because the composition of HFCS and sucrose are so similar, particularly on absorption by the body, it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose. Nevertheless, few studies have evaluated the potentially differential effect of various sweeteners, particularly as they relate to health conditions as obesity…”
No matter, many San Francisco parents are happy about the removal of HFCS from their children’s milk. “I do see it as a slight victory,” says Maren Nymo, who sends her child to a public school in San Francisco. “I think its a great chance to reinforce the belief that foods ‘closest to the source, or earth’ are a better option than those that are made in labs. Its definitely a step in the right direction.”
While the HFCS-free milk is a step in the right direction, some would like to see an even bigger step taken and chocolate milk removed all together. “The quick response to SFUSD’s request from Berkeley Farms indicates that our District has significant leverage in the marketplace in terms of buying power, which can hopefully continue to be used to our advantage,” says Lena Brook, founder of the SF Food Coalition. “I commend Ed Wilkins for his responsiveness on this issue and his dedication to creating a healthy food program for SFUSD students. But I continue to have concerns about SFUSD students having daily access to beverages with added sugar. There is a significant body of research demonstrating the negative impact of various forms of sugar on health.”
Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, encourages San Francisco parents to continue to fight for better food in their children’s schools. “It’s great that the public schools want to do something about the healthfulness of the school lunches and I know that many people believe that high fructose corn syrup is the worst thing ever,” says Nestle, “but it’s really just sugar and the switch to sucrose is about marketing, not health. If parents really want the lunches to be healthier, they need to work on cutting down on all kinds of sugars and start serving kids real food.”
Because SFUSD is required to serve two milk choices, you might think the district could simply offer 1-percent white milk and skim or 2-percent white milk. But getting rid of chocolate milk isn’t that easy. In fact, it’s rather complicated.
SFUSD is restricted by countless regulations that dictate what goes into public school children’s mouths. USDA sets minimum calorie levels for school meals, and limits on the amounts of fat and saturated fat. Because SFUSD has focused on reducing fat and empty calories in cafeteria items, the meals are now very close to the USDA minimums, and are based on a meal which includes either 1-percent white milk or skim chocolate milk. “Replacing skim chocolate milk with skim white milk would cause the calorie count of the meal to drop below the USDA-mandated minimum,” says Woldow, “while offering 2-percent white milk as the required second choice would exceed the fat content limits.” Again, it’s complicated.
January 13, 2010
The Huffington Post
By Katherine Goldstein
In a study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences, analyzing the effects of genetically modified foods on mammalian health, researchers found that agricultural giant Monsanto’s GM corn is linked to organ damage in rats.
According to the study, which was summarized by Adam Shake at Twilight Earth, “Three varieties of Monsanto’s GM corn – Mon 863, insecticide-producing Mon 810, and Roundup® herbicide-absorbing NK 603 – were approved for consumption by US, European and several other national food safety authorities.”
Monsanto gathered its own crude statistical data after conducting a 90-day study, even though chronic problems can rarely be found after 90 days, and concluded that the corn was safe for consumption. The stamp of approval may have been premature, however.
In the conclusion of the IJBS study, researchers wrote:
“Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity….These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long time periods are currently unknown.”
Monsanto has immediately responded to the study, stating that the research is “based on faulty analytical methods and reasoning and do not call into question the safety findings for these products.”
The IJBS study’s author Gilles-Eric Séralini responded to the Monsanto statement on the blog, Food Freedom, “Our study contradicts Monsanto conclusions because Monsanto systematically neglects significant health effects in mammals that are different in males and females eating GMOs, or not proportional to the dose. This is a very serious mistake, dramatic for public health. This is the major conclusion revealed by our work, the only careful reanalysis of Monsanto crude statistical data.”