Archive for the ‘TRANSPLANTS’ Category

Italian neuroscientist intends bringing frozen brains back to life

Friday, April 28th, 2017

London: A neuroscientist claims he will be able to “wake up” people who have been cryogenically frozen within three years, by transferring their brains to donor bodies.

Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, has already announced plans to carry out the first human head transplant, an operation which he claims is just 10 months away.

But he is now thinking further ahead, and wants to begin brain transplants within three years.

If the procedures are successful, he believes that frozen brains could be thawed and inserted into a donor, effectively bringing “dead” people back to life.

Hundreds of people who were dying or paralysed have had their bodies or brains cryogenically preserved in the hope that medical science will one day be able to cure their conditions.

Although many experts are sceptical that the brain can be thawed without damage, Professor Canavero said he planned to awaken patients frozen by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, which is based in Arizona.

“As soon as the first human head transplant has taken place, no later than 2018, we will be able to attempt to reawaken the first frozen head,” he said.

“We are currently planning the world’s first brain transplant, and I consider it realistic that we will be ready in three years at the latest.”

British scientists are sceptical about whether the brain could be fully restored from frozen.

Clive Coen, professor of neuroscience at King’s College London, said the chances of bringing a brain back was “infinitesimal”.

Dr Channa Jayasena, clinical senior lecturer at Imperial College London added: “It is currently not possible to freeze and thaw human tissue without killing many cells contained within it.”

Professor Canavero is working with a Chinese team of doctors led by Dr Ren Xiaoping, of Harbin Medical Centre, who helped perform the first successful hand transplant in the US.

Although Russian computer scientist Valery Spiridonov, who has spinal muscular atrophy, had volunteered to become the first head transplant patient, the team expects the first operation to be with a Chinese donor and patient.

Last year, the team announced a successful head transplant performed on a monkey.

Telegraph, London

Ethics of Organ Donation from Prisoners on death row

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network

Dr David van der Poorten performs the transplant image

Rationale for Deliberation

prison pic-5

As the scarcity of suitable organs for transplantation continues to grow, alternative sources for organs have been reported and others suggested. One such suggestion is to recover organs that would otherwise seem to go to waste, such as those from condemned prisoners. Reportedly the People’s Republic of China recovers organs from executed prisoners, and recent U.S. news reports have alleged that organ brokers operate in this country who arrange transplantation of the foreign prisoner’s organs. This discussion is not restricted to third world countries. In the United States, proposals of this type have come from prominent figures and bodies. While one proposal suggested that prisoners be given the option of donating organs upon their death, another suggests that condemned prisoners be offered the option of trading a kidney or their bone marrow in exchange for a commuted sentence of life in prison without parole.

While it is beyond the scope of the UNOS Ethics Committee to examine the moral and ethical issues encompassing the death penalty, it is worth noting that this topic is both ethically and judicially controversial. Acknowledgment should at least be made that the death penalty is rarely available or applied in most industrialized western nations, except for the United States. All western European countries, Canada, Mexico, Central and South American, with the exception of Chile, have abolished the death penalty. Recent U. S. data show an inequitable application of the death penalty with a significant evidence of racial bias particularly in the south. The data indicate that blacks are five times more likely to be sentenced to death than whites convicted of similar crimes and that the economically disadvantaged as well are more likely than the wealthy to receive the death penalty.

Any law or proposal that allows a person to trade an organ for a reduction in sentence, particularly a sentence from death to life in prison, raises numerous issues. Application of the death penalty is spasmodic and seemingly discriminatorily applied, which would suggest that these types of proposals would be coercive to particular classes of individuals–minorities and the poor. Would the reduction in sentence apply to the offer to donate, or would it only be honored if the act of donation took place? If the act of donation would exclusively qualify for the reduction in sentence, then the law or policy would discriminate against individuals found to be medically unsuitable to donate organs. Examples include:

  • those with common prison infections such as tuberculosis, HIV or hepatitis B
  • the prisoners with a single functioning kidney, or on dialysis, or with diabetes or other renal diseases

Were prisoners allowed to trade a kidney to mitigate a death sentence, it may affect the actual imposition of the death penalty. With greater publicity surrounding these types of proposals/laws, potential jurors could be influenced and ultimately impose the death penalty more often with a potential societal benefit in mind. Jurors might hope that the convicted persons would choose to trade their kidney for their life. This would present a gross inequity for those unable or unwilling to donate a kidney and who might otherwise have not received a death sentence.

The proposals that concern organ recovery from executed prisoners unveil another host of problems. One method of execution suggested is the act of organ donation itself. From a utilitarian standpoint this would make sense; the anesthetizing of the condemned and the recovery of organs in the usual manner would produce optimum organs for transplantation. However, the cross-clamping the aorta and the ensuing cardiectomy, followed by the disconnection of the ventilator, create an unacceptable situation for the organ recovery team. It clearly places the organ recovery team in the role of executioner. Many physician groups, including the American Medical Association, have prohibited physician participation in state executions on ethical grounds.

Issues of informed consent of potential donors as well as recipients need to be addressed. Obviously a person condemned to death cannot consider organ or bone marrow donation as a coercion-free option. Even a death row inmate should have the option of refusing an invasive surgical procedure–although unlikely, given the alternative. Correspondingly a person to be executed, or their next of kin/surrogate, should be able to make an informed decision regarding any donation options, including informed refusal if they so chose. Ultimately the potential organ/bone marrow recipient(s) should be informed that the source of the donation was a condemned prisoner, while maintaining the prisoner’s confidentiality. Individuals in opposition to the death penalty might object to accepting an organ from either an executed prisoner or a prisoner who traded their organ for their life.

Consider the effect that such a policy/law could have on organ donation overall. The number of potential organs recovered from condemned prisoners would be small. The conceivable stigma that would be attached to organ donation from its coupling with execution could lead to decreases in donation rates. This may especially be true within certain minority groups. Any notion that particular groups of people were receiving increased numbers of death sentences to provide organs for the rest of society would clearly make it difficult to attempt to obtain consent for altruistic donation from these groups.


The UNOS Ethics Committee has raised a small number of the many issues regarding organ donation from condemned prisoners. The Committee opposes any strategy or proposed statute regarding organ donation from condemned prisoners until all of the potential ethical concerns have been satisfactorily addressed.


Henry Sapiecha

Australia’s Westmead Hospital to offer life-saving, stomach-churning, poo transplant cure

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Despite the ick factor, some doctors have called fecal transplants a near miraculous treatment for recurrent infections from an antibiotic-resistant, often deadly, superbug.

Poo transplanting

Dr David van der Poorten from Westmead Hospital has been performing a revolutionary treatment that offers the chance of a cure for debilitating and potentially deadly gut conditions.

“It was the worst time in my life,” Samar Munoz says of the superbug that ravaged her body.

Daily antibiotics were not strong enough to fight off the Clostridium difficile (C. diff) attacking her guts for nearly 15 years. In January, and then again in May, she found herself fighting for her life in intensive care.

It’s a very, very good idea. It should have been done a long time ago.  

Professor Thomas Borody

So when doctors at Westmead Hospital offered her the chance to become the first patient in a new treatment for C. diff she knew she had to take part, although she “was a bit iffy” at first.

Samar Munoz's health turned around after she had a poo transplant from her husband imjage

Samar Munoz’s health turned around after she had a poo transplant from her husband, Charles. Photo: Tony Walters

That’s because the treatment itself was perhaps the most stomach-churning cure for a gut problem you could possibly imagine

Ms Munoz was to be given a poo transplant.And not just any poo: her husband, Charles, was to be the donor.
Dr David van der Poorten performs the transplant image

Dr David van der Poorten performs the transplant. Photo: Supplied

But the results were almost immediate. After years of suffering, Ms Munoz is now cured.

The procedure allows the good bacteria in the transplanted poo to recolonise the body, so the body can fight off the infection.

Westmead Hospital is now setting up a permanent program of poo transplantation, with the hope that patients from across the state will be referred when all else has failed. It will be only the second public hospital in Australia to offer it, even though the Gastroenterological Society of Australia last month recommended all people with recurrent C. diff should get it.

Recently, Fairfax Media understands a young woman in her 30s died of a C. diff infection that attacked her system so quickly and viciously that nothing could be done.

David van der Poorten, a staff specialist in gastroenterology and hepatology at Westmead Hospital and a senior lecturer at Sydney University, said he was setting up a “poo bank” at the hospital, so emergency cases – often caused by severe “superbug” strains that are more common overseas – could be treated.

“In most cases C. diff infection only occurs in people who are sick anyway; the elderly, people with immune problems or cancer, or people who have had a lot of antibiotics,” he said.

Recipe for success: the note that sits next to the specially bought blender.

Recipe for success: the note that sits next to the specially bought blender.

“Some of these severe strains seem to be occurring even in people who are relatively healthy.”

More than 4500 people in NSW are infected with C. diff each year, with infections increasing. In 5 per cent of cases antibiotics fail, and sometimes the only treatment is to remove the bowel. If successful, such drastic surgery has huge impacts on the person’s quality of life. But in up to half the cases it fails, and the person dies.

So far four patients have been treated at Westmead and all have been cured. The treatment is believed to have a 90 per cent success rate.

“There’s very few things we do where the success rate is 90 per cent – a treatment that works in 60 per cent of cases is considered an excellent treatment,” Dr van der Poorten said.

He was inspired to start the program at Westmead after a groundbreaking study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found it was an almost universal cure for the deadly C. diff infection, to such an extent that the ethics committee in charge stopped the study early on the grounds it would be unethical not to offer the treatment to all patients.

Yet the only place where the treatment was available was the privately run Centre for Digestive Diseases in Five Dock, which is run by a pioneer of faecal transplant – Australian professor Thomas Borody.

Dr David van der Poorten performs a transplant at Westmead Hospital image

“Most of the patients we have at Westmead don’t have private health insurance and it’s just not feasible for them to pay a couple of thousand dollars,” Dr van der Poorten said. “We had patients who had ended up with bad outcomes who almost certainly would have done better if they had had this treatment. Yet not a single public hospital was offering it.”

An editorial published in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday said Australian health authorities were behind Britain in formalising approval for the treatment.

Dr van der Poorten said part of the difficulty in getting a clinic set up was that hospitals and medical authorities tended not to know how to categorise a poo transplant: as a drug, experimental treatment, or a biological therapy. To get his clinic set up took more than 12 months and required him to do it as part of a new clinical trial.

But this means Dr van der Poorten may now be able to use the trial to explore cutting-edge research into how the bacteria in our guts could influence things such as why some people get overweight while others stay thin.

Researchers believe it could be linked to our individual range of gut bacteria.

“I think eventually it will be proven that if you get the appropriate mix of bacteria from someone who is lean, it does affect things like metabolism,” he said.

This year US doctors reported a case of a healthy-weight patient who received a transplant from her overweight daughter. Within a year and a half, the woman had become obese. Other studies in mice have found similar effects.

Westmead Hospital will only source donations from lean people who have undergone a raft of tests and a full medical history. This would stop people who have, for example, a family history of bowel cancer from donating.

So far every donation besides Mr Munoz’ has come from a gasteroenterology registrar, and Dr van der Poorten expects medical students will make up most future donors.

The donation is simply collected, tested, then blended with saline solution in a normal household blender, and inserted via colonoscopy.

Professor Borody said he welcomed the new clinic. “I think it’s a very, very good idea,” he said. “It should have been done a long time ago. It’s about time this was in the public system.”

And Ms Munoz says anyone suffering like she was should jump at the treatment.

“Just do it, do it, do it, do it,” she says. “It’s unbelievable.”


Henry Sapiecha


Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Arthur Lowery and Jeffrey Rosenfeld with a 9mm ceramic tile central to their bionic eye project image

Arthur Lowery and Jeffrey Rosenfeld with a 9mm ceramic tile central to their bionic eye project. Photo: Simon Schluter

Researchers working on the ambitious project led by Monash University to build a bionic eye have revealed they are ready to start human trials next year.

“We have gone past the point of no return, where the device has been manufactured in prototype form and it is working in the laboratory,” said Jeffrey Rosenfeld​, director of the Monash Institute of Medical Engineering.

Professor Rosenfeld​ outlined the group’s progress in Washington DC on Monday, at the American Association for Neurology Surgeons’ annual scientific meeting.

The human trial will involve patients who have lost their sight having tiny “ceramic tiles” the size of a small fingernail implanted into their brain’s visual cortex at the Alfred Hospital, where Professor Rosenfeld​ is director of neurosurgery.

Up to five patients will participate in the trial. All will have lost their sight but Professor Rosenfeld​ said this could be due to a range of reasons.

This is because the device bypasses the normal visual pathway, unlike the other bionic eye being developed by Bionic Vision Australia which relies on an implant in the retina.

Developed by a multidisciplinary team at Monash Vision Group, the bionic eye uses a digital camera mounted on glasses to capture images before transferring them to a vision processing device about the size of a mobile phone.

Once processed, the image is transferred to an antenna attached to the back of a glasses frame.

The image is then wirelessly transmitted to the brain, where it is received by the small ceramic tiles implanted during surgery. The tiny tiles, each containing 43 microelectrodes​, measure 9mm by 9mm.

bionicEye schematic diagram image

“The tiles are like a little pin cushion that pierce the brain,” Professor Rosenfeld​ said. “And we can put multiple tiles in so we can have several hundred electrodes.”

The more electrodes, the more detailed the image will be. However Monash Vision Group director Arthur Lowery said a maximum of 11 tiles, giving 473 electrodes, could be implanted. Fully-sighted people use over a million electrodes.

Working with a limited number of electrodes to carry information means the device has to be programmed to select which information it gathers and transmits.

To do this, researchers recreated what they believed people would see when they had the electrodes in the brain. They developed a computer program which takes a camera image and selects the important information before translating it into a “dot pattern” the brain would experience when excited by electrodes.

The dot patterns were then tested on sighted people using virtual reality goggles.

“That allowed us to test different visual processing algorithms,” Professor Lowery said. “The idea really is to cut out the clutter in an image and present the information that is important to people.”

More than 500,000 Australians are considered clinically blind. Many of them have damaged optical nerves, which prevent signals from reaching the brain.

The Monash Vision Group, a collaboration between Monash University, Alfred Health, MiniFAB and Grey Innovation, is building a bionic eye that bypasses the eye. Bionic Vision Australia, is taking a different approach and developing a microchip to be inserted into the retina of vision-impaired patients.


Henry Sapiecha


Friday, December 5th, 2014



Henry Sapiecha


Monday, September 1st, 2014

Nasal septum cartilage cells can easily be coaxed into reproducing, providing a patient with their own source of replacement joint cartilage  image

Depending on the part of the body and the nature of the injury, cartilage either doesn’t grow back at all, or does so very slowly. That’s why joint injuries often take a long time to heal, to the point that scientists are looking into using things like hydrogels and 3D printers to help speed the process. Now, however, researchers from Switzerland’s University of Basel are reporting that cartilage cells harvested from a patient’s own nose can be used to grow replacement cartilage for their knee.

In the ongoing study, 6 mm-wide plugs of cartilage are being taken from test subjects’ nasal septum (the bit inside the nose, that separates the nostrils). Cells are extracted from that tissue, multiplied in the lab, and then applied to a piece of biocompatible scaffolding-like material.

Once the lab-grown cells have colonized that material, it’s formed into a 30 x 40-mm graft. That graft is then used to replace damaged articular cartilage (the tissue that covers the ends of the bones, where they meet to form joints), which has been surgically removed from one of the patient’s knees. So far, the results are described as “very promising,” with the nose cartilage adapting well to its new environment.

Nasal septum cartilage cells differ from articular cartilage cells, in that they don’t express certain homeobox (HOX) genes. What this means in practical terms is that the nasal cells reproduce much more readily, so growing cartilage from them is a lot easier. The cells possess this quality throughout a person’s lifetime, so the treatment should work even on the elderly, who are the ones most likely to require it as their joints deteriorate. That said, it could conceivably be used on anyone suffering from cartilage injuries or defects.

The research is being led by professors Ivan Martin and Marcel Jakob

Henry Sapiecha


Monday, August 26th, 2013



Sometimes medical advances don’t come from the medical field at all.

Engineers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology have designed a super-strong glass implant with a scaffolding-like structure that is able to grow new bone.

“We have good material and engineering skills,” said lead researcher Len Rahaman, “and when you put those two together, it’s allowed us to use our skills to produce a bioactive glass that is strong enough to repair large structural bone defects.”

Bioactive means the material reacts with body fluids and converts into living bone, so it does not need to be removed.

In previous work, the engineers proved the glass implant they developed using robocasting – a computer-controlled technique to ensure a uniform structure – could withstand the weight and pressure experienced by long bones in the body like those in the arms and legs.

Their latest research using the skulls of rats, showed that the porous scaffolding design quickly bonded to the bone and promoted a significant amount of new bone growth within six weeks. The research was published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia.

“You can have the strongest material in the world, but it also must encourage bone growth in a reasonable amount of time,” Rahaman said.

The material could someday be used to repair large bone defects that are the result of cancer, war or car crashes.

Current treatments to structural bone repair involve either porous metal, which can heal poorly and become infected; or a bone transplant from a cadaver, which carries risk of disease. Bone also can be taken from one part of the body to another, but the amount is limited, and the result can be pain and poor healing at the donor site.

The materials for the glass implant are inexpensive and easy to obtain, Rahaman said. “If it turns out to be a viable solution, we could actually reduce health care costs.”

Next, the researchers are testing the glass implant in the large leg bones of rats, which bear more weight. “Now that we know the bone will grow into the scaffold, we are testing it under more realistic conditions,” Rahaman said.

The next steps would be studying the implant in larger animals and winning approval to test the design in humans.

Problems may arise, but the engineering team is ready with solutions: adding small amounts of silver to the glass implant could prevent infection, and doping it with copper should promote the growth of blood vessels if needed to keep the bone healthy.

Rahaman said he’s working with an orthopedic surgeon and a bone biologist, but the research “requires use of our engineering skills”.



Henry Sapiecha

rainbow line



Monday, April 16th, 2012


A gun accident fifteen years ago left Richard Lee Norris without his lips, nose, and with limited movement of his mouth. Now after a marathon 36-hour surgical procedure described as “the most extensive full face transplant completed to date,” a team led by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez at the University of Maryland has restored Mr. Norris’ quality of life.

The procedure, which goes by the technical name of “vascularized composite allograft” (VCA), took place at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center on March 19-20 and involved over 150 nurses and professional staff.

CT scan before and after surgery (Image: University of Maryland Medical Center)

“We utilized innovative surgical practices and computerized techniques to precisely transplant the mid-face, maxilla and mandible including teeth, and a portion of the tongue,” said Dr. Rodriquez. “In addition, the transplant included all facial soft tissue from the scalp to the neck, including the underlying muscles to enable facial expression, and sensory and motor nerves to restore feeling and function. Our goal is to restore function as well as have aesthetically pleasing results.”

The achievement is the result of 10 years of research and the generosity of a anonymous donor who also saved five other lives through organ transplants – four of which also took place at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Source: University of Maryland Medical Center

Published by Henry Sapiecha


Thursday, November 18th, 2010

New pump made for infant heart surgery

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they’ve developed a new heart pump that could help infants born with congenital heart defects survive necessary surgeries.

Scientists at Purdue University have created a “viscous impeller pump” for children born with univentricular circulation, a congenital heart disease that is the leading cause of death from birth defects in the first year of a child’s life, a university release said Tuesday.

The normal human heart contains two pumping chambers, called ventricles.

One circulates oxygenated blood throughout the body, while the other less-powerful ventricle circulates deoxygenated blood to the lungs.

Children born with univentricular circulation have only one functioning ventricle but can survive if blood vessels in the heart are restructured in a series of open-heart surgeries.

At least 30 percent of babies do not survive the surgeries, called the Fontan procedures.

To improve the survival rate, Purdue engineers and researchers developed the new mechanical pump to assist the heart during surgeries.

“A big advantage of this pump is that it gets delivered through the skin with a catheter without open heart surgery,” Steven Frankel, a Purdue University professor of mechanical engineering, said.

“It is designed to be in the body for two weeks at most, almost like a disposable item,” Frankel said.

The researchers have received a $2.1 million, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to continue developing the heart pump, Purdue said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Friday, August 13th, 2010

Cell reprogramming breakthrough could mend broken hearts

Heart disease remains one the biggest killers in the Western world. When a heart attack or heart failure occurs, permanent damage often results, destroying live cells and leaving the patient with irreversible scarring. Now scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (GICD) have discovered a new technique to create healthy beating heart cells from structural cells, opening up the possibility of regenerating damaged hearts. Read More

Received & published by Henry Sapiecha