A 7-year-old boy with untreatable wounds on his skin has had 80 percent of his skin replaced with a genetically modified epidermis, saving his life.
The boy has grown up with a life-threatening genetic disorder that has resulted in untreatable and infected wounds all over his body. Before the surgery to replace it, the boy had lost 80 percent of his skin to the disorder.
In 2015, doctors at a children’s hospital in Germany had done their best to at least make the boy comfortable after all other attempts to save him had failed.
The Syrian boy, known only as Hassan, suffers from junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB), a rare inherited skin disorder. According to IFL Science, people with the disorder suffer from genetic mutations on one of three genes, LAMC2, LAMA3 or LAMB3, which help to produce the laminin 332 protein. This is the protein that helps to attach the upper layers of skin to the deeper layers. Without it, sufferer’s skin can become blistered from just a small bump or friction.
A study was published in Natureexamining this case, titled “Regeneration of the entire human epidermis using transgenic stem cells”. It explains that sufferers of JEB face devastating effects of the disease, including having trouble eating as blistering can also occur inside the body. There is no cure to the disease, and about 40 percent of children with the condition won’t survive their first year, with four in 10 patients won’t reach adolescence.
The genetically modified skin was grown in labs and took two months to be grafted onto the boy.
“The kid is now back to school. He plays soccer,” lead author Dr Tobias Hirsch, from the hospital, told BBC News.
“Today this treatment is not available and it is not going to be available in the next few months, but this is a massive advance in research and is going to give us hope going forward with gene therapy.”
Almost two years later, Hassan is doing well. He doesn’t need to take medicine, is doing well at his school in Germany, and his skin heals just like other healthy children.
The study found that someone aged 20 or older on ART in the U.S or Canada is now expected to live into their early 70s – a life expectancy that’s approaching that of the general population. However, the study also found that if a 20-year-old is a man, and starts HIV treatment early with a CD4 count at or above 350, they can expect to live an additional 69 years, or to approximately 89 years old, 10-12 years longer than the general population.
Dr. Gary Blick, Chief Medical Officer of World Health Clinicians and co-founder of HIV Equal, says this is clear evidence of the success of newer and improved HIV drugs:
“One of the main reasons for the increase in life expectancy above that of the general population has everything to do with knowing your HIV status…If you are diagnosed with HIV and get in and stay in care, you will get better monitoring and treatment than someone in the general population who might otherwise not seek medical attention. The only sobering fact is that large differences in life expectancy still continue to persist in certain patient sub-groups, such as between MSM and intravenous drug users or other HIV risk groups, as well as between Caucasians and all other races. We need to better understand the specific reasons for these life expectancy differences and improvements”.
How can this actually be?
Doctors say it’s mainly due to the incredible pharmacological advances that have been made in how the virus is treated and managed. “Highly active antiretroviral therapy” have resulted in being able to maintain the infected person’s immune system and therefore prevent the opportunistic infections that resulted in the development of AIDS and led to death. This medication usually involves taking 1-2 tablets a day.
Another reason for the increased life expectancy is that a person infected with HIV goes to the doctor to get their blood checked every 4 months, which can mean they’re more likely to catch other diseases that they wouldn’t have caught had they not seen a doctor.
According to Dr. Pemberton, the people who became dangerously unwell with the disease “are often immigrants who have been infected for years, and present to hospital late with the kind of infections that we no longer see in those on medication.”
This underscores the importance of catching HIV early and getting on treatment as soon as possible.
According to AIDS Map, transmission mostly occurs when people don’t know they have it. When HIV infected people are on medication, they become far less likely to transmit it to others.
While we still haven’t found a cure for HIV/AIDS, we shouldn’t ignore the miraculous advancement western medicine has made in treating people with the disease.
Dr. Pembertion says it best:
“HIV/Aids wards and specialist units have closed simply because there is no longer the volume of patients to fill them. This is a hugely encouraging fact, which would have seemed impossible to those who stood, in the 1980s and 1990s, as friends, family and loved ones faded away while doctors stood by utterly helpless. What is truly startling is the speed with which medicine responded to HIV.”
Vaccinations are one of the most incredible inventions from modern medicine. They have eradicated lethal diseases that have previously wrecked havoc on humanity.
And yet, despite doctor’s reassurance and evidence that cites the safety and value of vaccination, many educated, dedicated parents are still wary of vaccines.
Although national immunization rate has been stable over the past decade, it’s still below the government’s goal of 80%.
In certain areas, some parents are delaying shots for their kids or skipping ones altogether, citing religious or philosophical exemptions.
As a consequence, there have been recent outbreaks of serious diseases that vaccines had virtually wiped out in the U.S, including measles, mumps, whopping cough and haemophilus influenza type b.
Disease specialists say these cases are due to what’s known as the “herd immunity”. If a community is to be fully protected against a disease, 80 to 90 percent of its population needs to be vaccinated.
Whenever coverage drops below that level, a school, a church or a neighborhood becomes susceptible. Babies who aren’t old enough to get the shot are at the most risk.
The Council of Foreign Relations have released an interactive map showing the horrible outcome of not getting vaccinated, which now published on the Vaccines Work website.
This interactive map gives a gut sinking tour of global outbreaks of measles, mumps, rubella, polio and whooping cough from 2008-2017. These diseases have fatal consequences, yet are easily prevented by vaccines.
The majority of these deaths occur in impoverished regions with very little access to vaccines. In the case of developed countries like US or UK, they shouldn’t be occurring at all.
The Big Fear
Why do some parents object to getting their kid vaccinated? The most common answer is: autism.
Many people believe that the increase number of vaccines -children now get twice as many as they did in 1980 and can receive up to 20 injections by their first birthday – are to blame for the rise in kids with autism spectrum disorders.
This idea became well known when Andrew Wakefield, M.D, a British gastroenterologist, published a study of 12 children in the Lancet that linked the measles, mumps and rubella combination vaccine with intestinal problems that he believed led to autism.
The vaccine-autism hypothesis was solidly in the mainstream by the time actress Jenny McCarhy went public with her belief that vaccines cause her son’s autism. This was enough to scare any Mother.
However, at least 7 large studies in major medical journals have found no association between the MMR vaccine and ASD.
Also, the Lancet officially retracted Dr. Wakefield’s original paper (as he has failed to disclose connections to lawyers involved in vaccine litigation).
Furthermore, several demographic analyses have found that autism rates continued to rise after thimerosal was removed from all vaccines, except flu shots.
So, why are there so many reports of children developing autism after getting vaccinated?
Experts believe it’s almost certainly coincidental. Children get their first dose of the MMR vaccine at 12 to 15 months, the age at which autism symptoms become noticeable, says Paul Offit, M.D., director of the vaccine education center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the author of Autism’s False Profits: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. “It’s the same reason why there are reports of SIDS deaths after DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) immunizations,” says Dr. Offit. “Infants start the DTaP vaccine between 2 and 6 months, which is the time they’re also most likely to die from SIDS.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any risks when it comes to vaccines. However, the risks far outweigh the cons. Doctors say the odds of experiencing a vaccine-related injury are greatly outweighed by the dangers of catching a vaccine-related injury.
For example, the DTaP vaccine causes seizures or temporary shock-like state in 1 in 14,000 people, and acute encephalitis (brain swelling) in 11 in 1 million. But the diseases it prevents – diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis – are fatal in 1 in 20 cases, 1 in 10 cases and 1 in 1,500 cases, respectively.
There is so much negative news doing the rounds that it’s easy to lose sight of the many really good things happening in the world right now.
This is why we wanted to share you some of the good news amongst the madness.
Here we share a few of the great developments in medical science. Allow it to lift your spirits!
1. Doctors have reversed a 2-year-old girl’s brain damage after she drowned.
Researchers in the US have reported what they believe is a first-of-its-kind reversal of brain damage on a two-year-old girl who drowned in a pool and was resuscitated after two hours of her heart not beating on its own. Thanks to a course of oxygen treatments were able to significantly reverse the toddler’s brain damage.
2. Smallpox has been eradicated and two more diseases that have plagued mankind for centuries are going the same way.
Scientists are on the verge of wiping out the Guinea Worm parasite, mostly thanks to an ingenious and cheap drinking straw filter that stops people from being contaminated via water. As of May this year, there were only five recorded cases. So far in 2017 there have only been eight confirmed cases of polio.
3. A drug that can treat autism symptoms is close.
A small, but promising clinical trial in the US showed this year that a 100-year-old drug called suramin can measurably improve the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. There’s a lot more work to be done, but it’s the first time we’ve been so close to having a drug that can potentially treat ASD symptoms.
4. A UK-based team of researchers has created a graphene-based sieve capable of removing salt from seawater.
More work needs to be done to produce graphene oxide membranes inexpensively at industrial scales, but the development could eventually save millions of people without ready access to clean drinking water.
5. Scientists think they might be able to reverse Alzheimer’s memory loss.
An enzyme that interferes with key memory-forming processes in people with Alzheimer’s can now be specifically targeted so it can’t cause a genetic blockade, according to new research out of MIT.
6. A simple vitamin supplement could have the potential to prevent miscarriages and birth defects, according to a 12-year study by scientists in Australia.
In what scientists are calling “the most important discovery for pregnant women since folate”, a 12-year study has revealed that women could avoid miscarriages and birth defects by simply taking vitamin B3 during pregnancy.
7. Researchers are finally beginning to understand how to repair spinal cord injuries.
It is extremely complicated, but new research has shed light on how one of the most cutting edge techniques and how it works at a cellular level. By finally understanding how spinal cord injuries can heal, researchers will eventually be able to develop even more effective treatments that could potentially go as far as reversing paralysis and other nervous system damage.
8. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria already kill around 700,000 people each year.
Antibiotic resistance is regarded as a global epidemic, but scientists have found a way to reverse antibiotic resistance. At the start of this year, scientists announced the development of a molecule that reverses antibiotic resistance in multiple strains of bacteria at once, making it one of the most promising advances we’ve had to date in the fight against superbugs.
If you live in America, you probably know someone who has suffered from a heart attack. According to statistics, it’s the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S. Each year, about 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack.
Most deaths from heart attacks occur because of ventricular fibrillation of the heart that occurs before the victim can reach an emergency room.
The good news is, those who reach the emergency room have an excellent prognosis. Survival from a heart attack exceeds 90%.
So, here are 7 crucial symptoms that could occur months (or earlier) before a heart attack.
1) Extreme fatigue
Heavy fatigue that lasts for days, weeks or even months can signal heart trouble. This isn’t simply feeling “tired” but extreme fatigue that you’d usually associate with having a flu.
More than 70 percent of women in a National Institute of Health study reported extreme fatigue weeks or months before a heart attack.
Watch out for fatigue that occurs suddenly that can’t be linked to any other factors such as lack of sleep or illness.
2) Insomnia and anxiety
Heart disease may cause a decrease in oxygen levels which may trigger agitation and anxiety.
Two studies found a strong association between self-reported symptoms of extreme anxiety and a risk of heart disease.
Watch out for sleep problems or anxiety if you’ve never experience this problem before.
3) Shortness of breathe
When you can’t breathe deeply, you probably think the problem is your lungs. However, it can also occur from little oxygen in your blood from your heart. You might also feel light-headed and dizzy.
A study published in Circulation found that 40% of heart attack victims report shortness of breath 6 months prior to having a heart attack.
4) Excessive sweating
While sweating in hot weather or during physical activity is healthy, a study suggests that when individuals excessively perspire and begin experiencing discomfort in chest, arm, neck or jaw with no exertion, it could be a sign of heart failure.
Watch out for flu-like symptoms that can last longer than a week, or that come and go over a period of time.
5) Chest pain, heaviness or discomfort
Accorfing to Dr. Xu, this can occur months before a heart attack occurs. This is a somewhat typical symptom and can come and go at different times.
Keep a watch out for this if the faintness can’t be linked to anything else, such as lack of water.
7) Irregular heart beat
This can usually last for 1-2 minutes and it might cause dizziness and fatigue. It often appears unexpectedly and can be either be an irregular heartbeat or increased heart rate.
Dr. Xu reminds us that it’s important not to ignore symptoms and wait until they become severe. If you have a concern, talk to your doctor. If heart disease is caught early, there are many lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk.
Today’s generation is far more self-absorbed than even our parent’s generation was. We want more and we want it now. So it seems strange to have a conversation about how the things we are doing and studying and experimenting with now are going to have not just global impacts, but universal impacts.
Juan Enriquez is a scientist who studies what life looks like in the future. The most important question that society needs to ask itself right now is “is it ethical to alter the human body to further our species”?
If you have one of those self-absorbed perspectives, you might not think twice about saying, “yes! Change it all so humanity can survive!” But Enriquez pushes the question further and asks if that is really what needs to happen.
You can watch Juan Enriquez’ TED fascinating TED talk here:
If you can’t watch the video right now, here’s a summary in text:
As he recounts a lifetime of experiments involving human evolution, natural and forced, he continues to push the question of whether or not this is the right thing to do. Pacemakers extend lives, new hips help people walk, but where does it stop?
Well, it turns out that it isn’t stopping anytime soon.
As more and more scientists take on keeping the human race alive as long as possible, new and interesting (any maybe questionable) experiments are being conducted to find out what it looks like to transplant prosthetic kidneys, lungs, entire bones, skin, and brains.
“And four of the smartest people that I’ve ever met — Ed Boyden, Hugh Herr, Joe Jacobson, Bob Lander — are working on a Center for Extreme Bionics. And the interesting thing of what you’re seeing here is these prosthetics now get integrated into the bone. They get integrated into the skin. They get integrated into the muscle. And one of the other sides of Ed is he’s been thinking about how to connect the brain using light or other mechanisms directly to things like these prosthetics. And if you can do that, then you can begin changing fundamental aspects of humanity. So how quickly you react to something depends on the diameter of a nerve. And of course, if you have nerves that are external or prosthetic, say with light or liquid metal, then you can increase that diameter and you could even increase it theoretically to the point where, as long as you could see the muzzle flash, you could step out of the way of a bullet. Those are the order of magnitude of changes you’re talking about.”
A Chinese scientist is conducting hundreds of surgeries to find out if a mouse head can be transplanted to see if the brain lives and if it retains anything.
And we all know that human experimentation starts with the mice.
“The second experiment to think about is a really weird experiment that’s been taking place in China. So this guy has been transplanting hundreds of mouse heads. Right? And why is that an interesting experiment? Well, think of the first heart transplants. One of the things they used to do is they used to bring in the wife or the daughter of the donor so the donee could tell the doctors, “Do you recognize this person? Do you love this person? Do you feel anything for this person?” We laugh about that today. We laugh because we know the heart is a muscle, but for hundreds of thousands of years, or tens of thousands of years, “I gave her my heart. She took my heart. She broke my heart.” We thought this was emotion and we thought maybe emotions were transplanted with the heart. Nope.”
The point of all this heavy conversation is to determine if we need to prepare to vacate earth and how the human body will be able to adapt if life needs to continue to exist somewhere else.
Enriquez depicts interesting imagines of how the human body has already adapted and evolved to what we know today, but that our next generations might need adaptive help through genome evolution, biological prosthetics and even change the entire body itself to be something more conducive to living on Mars or on a moon far off in space.
Enriquez reminds us that there have been five extinction level events in the history of the planet and if we are smart we’d be preparing for the next one to ensure that the human race continues beyond the events of the future. And to that end, he turns the question of ethical behavior on its head and argues that knowing the extinction level event is coming, it would be unethical not to continue to find a way to save the human race.
“This is taken from six billion miles away, and that’s Earth. And that’s all of us. And if that little thing goes, all of humanity goes. And the reason you want to alter the human body is because you eventually want a picture that says, that’s us, and that’s us, and that’s us, because that’s the way humanity survives long-term extinction. And that’s the reason why it turns out it’s actually unethical not to evolve the human body even though it can be scary, even though it can be challenging, but it’s what’s going to allow us to explore, live and get to places we can’t even dream of today, but which our great-great-great-great- grandchildren might someday.”