Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Total Artificial Heart Provides Time For Those Waiting For A Transplant

Yoshifumi Naka, MD, PhD

Yoshifumi Naka, MD, PhD

Total Artificial Heart Improves Patient Survival to Transplant While Reducing Some Risks of Transplant Surgery

Surgeons at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center performed the first Total Artificial Heart implant in the New York City area to replace a patient’s dying heart.

“For patients who will die without a heart transplant, the Total Artificial Heart helps them survive until they can get one. By replacing the heart, we are eliminating the symptoms and the source of heart failure,” said lead surgeon Dr. Yoshifumi Naka, director of Cardiac Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support Programs at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia and associate professor of surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Similar to a heart transplant, the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Columbia University Department of Surgery Blog*

Neuron Transplants Help Obese Rats To Lose Weight

7c76dhu5 Completing the Circuit to Curb ObesityObesity is the most significant chronic healthcare crisis facing the United States, as well as other countries. Already 1 out of every 3 adults, and 1 out of every 6 children or adolescents, in the U.S. is obese! Leptin is a hormone that has received considerable attention since its discovery in 1994 for its role in regulating metabolism (like a thermostat, or adipostat) and implications for obesity. High leptin levels are associated with feeling satiated and an active metabolism. Though many overweight people have high levels of circulating leptin, it’s been found that their hypothalamic neurons do not receive the signal – a phenomenon known as “leptin resistance.” An animal model that mirrors this is db/db mice, which lack leptin receptors on the surface of they hypothalamic neurons and are therefore morbidly obese (see image).

Reporting in Science this past week, researchers at Harvard Medical School transplanted neurons with the leptin receptor into the hypothalami of db/db mice and as a result were able to partially restore leptin sensitivity and ameliorate their obesity. Two to three months after transplanting 15,000 (a relatively small number) fluorescently-tagged, leptin sensitive neurons into the db/db mice hypothalami, they observed statistically significant drops in blood sugar levels, leptin concentration, and fat mass. In terms of the mechanism and implications, the team concludes: Read more »

Difficulties In Donor Organ Allocation Given The Limited Supply

Robert S. Brown, Jr., MD, MPH

Robert S. Brown, Jr., MD, MPH

The November 10, 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine features an editorial by Robert S. Brown, Jr., MD, MPH, Director of the Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation, titled Transplantation for Alcoholic Hepatitis — Time to Rethink the 6-Month “Rule.”

In this editorial, Dr. Brown addresses the difficult questions surrounding how to fairly allocate donor organs, which are in far shorter supply than their demand. In the case of patients with alcoholic hepatitis, current guidelines exclude such patients from the liver transplant waiting list unless they have successfully abstained from alcohol for at least six months. Yet as Dr. Brown points out, many die before this required, albeit arbitrary, window elapses. And a new study indicates that Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Columbia University Department of Surgery Blog*

Woman Donates Part Of Liver To Her Fiancé

When Megan Ellerd and Steven Ferretti met seven years ago, it was “instant love,” she says. Not long after, the young couple found out that Steven had autoimmune hepatitis — but they didn’t worry too much about it, hoping that it wouldn’t affect them until much later in life. In 2008, however, the two were happily engaged when Steven’s condition suddenly took a turn for the worse. His liver was failing, and he needed a transplant.

Although Steven had severe liver disease and was experiencing painful symptoms such as ascites (fluid buildup in the abdomen), he would have had to become deathly ill in order to qualify for a donor organ from the transplant waiting list. For a couple with a wedding to plan and a bright future ahead, the prospect of Steven spending many months, if not years, in progressively worsening health was just not an option. For Megan, the choice was clear. She had known from the beginning that she would donate part of her liver to him if she could — and when testing Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Columbia University Department of Surgery Blog*

History In The Making: Can Womb Transplant Be Successful?

Infertility or the inability to have a baby can be devastating and affects approximately 10 percent of the female population. There are many conditions that prevent women from having children including Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser syndrome (or MKHS). MKHS is a rare disorder that affects a woman’s ability to conceive. At present, for every 10,000 women, only 1 to 2 will be affected. Both Sara Ottoson of Sweden and Melina Arnold of Australia have this condition. MKHS is characterized by the absence of a vagina and part of the cervix. Patients with this condition have normal breast development and functioning ovaries. Genetically, they also have female or double X-chromosomes and look like normal women. The problem comes to light during adolescence when a teen fails to have a period. The condition is also known as Vaginal Agenesis because they are born without a true vagina, a problem that can be corrected through surgical and non-surgical procedures. Unfortunately, they are unable to have children and usually Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »