Tag Archives: transplant

Infertility hope: Uterus transplant results in a healthy baby boy

pixabay baby holding dad's fingerInfertility is a heartbreaking problem that many women and couples face. There’s nothing worse than wanting a baby and being told that it will never happen, or being given the “one in a million” speech. And while there have been many advances in medicine that have helped women overcome the diagnosis of “infertility,” recent news of womb transplant success gives us a new reason to be optimistic!

For women who were born without a uterus (this affects about 1 in 5000 women worldwide) or have lost theirs to cancer, becoming pregnant doesn’t even seem like an option. But in September, all that changed when baby Vincent was born. Vincent’s mother was one of nine patients who had undergone a uterine transplant over the last two years in this particular study. Out of those nine patients, Vincent’s mom was the first to deliver her baby, and six others are currently pregnant.

While several countries may now start their own womb transplant programs, this is unlikely to become a commonplace technique, as it is expensive and risky. Patients must remain on anti-rejection medication to prevent their bodies from rejecting the transplanted uterus. After birth, the uterus would need be removed to prevent long-term health effects from anti-rejection drugs. But it’s still an incredible advance, and women who had no hope of becoming pregnant may now have a chance.

None of this would have been possible without dedicated researchers worldwide and the animal models that have contributed to the understanding and application of this science. Surgical techniques and anti-rejection drugs have progressed to the point of actually allowing a woman without a uterus to undergo a successful transplant and give birth to healthy baby- and that’s amazing! Read more about it here.

Liver transplant availability improved by rats

iStock_000015700850SmallLiver transplants may soon become available to many more patients, thanks to a slow-cooling method that  was developed in rats. This technique could make over 5,000 extra organs available to patients each year. Currently, a human liver only lasts for about 12 hours, so the pool of transplant recipients is very limited and depends on the patient’s proximity to the donor hospital.

Freezing organs can cause ice crystals, which can damage the cells. This slow-cooling method prevents the formation of ice crystals by introducing a chemical that protects the cells. The liver can then be stored at -6 degrees Celsius before it’s warmed back to body temperature and transplanted. Researchers also believe it’s possible to use this method on larger organs.

Pretty amazing- and this could mean the difference between life and death for thousands of patients! Between this cooling method and other advances aimed at organ preservation during transport, humans could likely begin to see the benefits of this research rather quickly. In this instance, the chemical components of this technique are already approved for use in humans, so after further research in larger animals, human trials won’t be far behind.

http://www.nature.com/news/supercooled-livers-last-for-days-1.15465

Bone marrow on a chip could revolutionize treatments!

iStock_000015264919SmallBone marrow is a complex tissue that, until now, could only be studied in living animals. Recently, Harvard researchers created “bone marrow on a chip” by reproducing the structure and function of bone marrow. Past efforts involving combining cells on an artificial surface have failed, because bone marrow is extremely complex. So researchers turned to animals for help. By creating a framework of bone powder and implanting it under the skin of an animal, the animal’s body did the work for them and created an impressive bone and marrow structure!

The engineered bone marrow could help researchers assess potential side effects of cancer treatments, observe the effects of drugs to prevent radiation poisoning, and even generate blood cells. It may even be possible to grow human bone marrow in immune-deficient mice!

Researchers work with animals because they often give more accurate information than cell cultures and computer simulations alone. From vaccine development to cancer treatments to joint replacement surgery, animals have been- and continue to be- extremely important in the effort to save lives. And now, animals are helping researchers create better alternatives, which could ultimately reduce the number of animals needed in research without compromising research outcomes. Good news for everyone!

Read more here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140505104433.htm

Opossums, melanoma, and HIV research- oh, my!

google free mini opossumLaboratory opossums (Monodelphis domestica) are marsupials that are native to South America. Unlike North American opossums, which are the size of a full-grown cat, they’re only about six inches long. But for such a small size, they’ve made quite an impact in the field of biomedical research.

They are excellent research models for a variety of reasons. Mini opossums are the only mammal (besides humans) to develop malignant melanoma after UV radiation. Because of this trait, researchers can test new treatments for melanoma and research prevention strategies. And amazingly, these animals also have the ability to heal after severe spinal cord injuries sustained during the first week of life. Adults are unable to do this, so researchers are working to identify the genes that switch this capability on and off.

They give birth to extremely underdeveloped young (gestation is only 14-15 days!), which cling to the mother and remain attached to her for a few more weeks until they are fully developed. This unique trait makes them an excellent model for research on early development, as well as transplant and cancer research. The laboratory opossum is also the first marsupial to have its genome sequenced, and in addition to the applications above, it’s also important in heart disease research, HIV research, and comparative genetics. They’re pretty important animals- read more about them here!

https://txbiomed.org/about/extraordinary-resources/the-laboratory-opossum

Don’t look now- but organ transplants are about to be REVOLUTIONIZED!

iStock_000021023060SmallOn average, a heart or a lung kept on ice will only last about 6 hours outside of the body. The organs suffer some damage during this time, so the chances of transplant success decrease as time passes. This severely limits the ability for a recipient to be able to receive donor organs- a team needs to be able to deliver the organ to the recipient’s location in a relatively short period of time, so it’s impossible for a patient in New York to receive a heart from a donor in Hawaii. And unfortunately, desperately needed donor organs are sometimes wasted because there are no potential recipients within range to accept them. 

But that may be about to change. Meet TransMedics’s Organ Care System. This amazing machine can pump oxygenated blood through hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys- AND monitor their performance! This could potentially increase the window of opportunity for recipients by keeping organs viable for longer periods of time, and improve patient outcomes by giving doctors a better idea of the chances of success for the transplanted organ!

Thanks to animal-based research that started over 100 years ago, the success of long-term tissue grafts and the ability to minimize organ rejection has saved many lives. The limitation was ice; and if study results are positive, the Organ Care System could revolutionize organ transplants!

Watch these videos of a lung and a heart in the machine- it’s amazing!

Bone marrow transplant outcomes improved by unlikely sources!

iStock_000008340944SmallHorses and rabbits can help improve outcomes for human patients receiving bone marrow transplants. Wait- horses and rabbits? Yes!

Bone marrow transplants involve harvesting stem cells from the bone marrow of a healthy person and transplanting them into a patient with certain cancers or blood disorders- leukemia, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell disease, to name a few. Harvesting stem cells from a relative usually has the best outcome, but that’s not always possible. A full sibling only has about a 25% chance of being a match, so most patients find an unrelated match through the bone marrow registry. (www.bethematch.org) Finding a way to improve the outcome for unrelated matches is always a goal in research- and this is where horses and rabbits come in!

Researchers inject human T-cells into a rabbit or a horse. Then, the animal’s immune system kills the T-cells and their bodies create antibodies. These antibodies are then removed and given to human patients- and they then kill the patient’s T-cells, reducing the risk of rejection!

Horse or rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) has been used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients as well as in the treatment of aplastic anemia. Talk about animals helping people!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120706234753.htm

Her Heart Will Go On

iStock_000022911974XSmallTragedy. Heartbreak. The death of a loved one is difficult to handle, and we never have all the answers we need. But thanks to biomedical research, organ donation can bring something good out of the tragedy of death. Heart transplants have been successful for over 40 years, with 60+ years of crucial animal studies leading up to the very first heart transplant in 1967. The video below, which was shown on Good Morning America a couple of years ago, has begun to circulate around the internet again- and after you watch the video, you’ll understand why. A mother, who lost her teenage daughter, gets to meet the woman whose life was saved and hear her daughter’s heart beat again. This story is sad, beautiful, and hopeful, and is a perfect example of the reason why people in the field of biomedical research are so passionate about what they do.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN8EMXDwJ1A

 

 

For more information on animal contributions to transplant research:

http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/why/human-health/organ-transplants/

Leukemia: Improving efficiency of bone marrow transplants

 

Photo from http://cancerlabtechperspective.blogspot.com

Photo from http://cancerlabtechperspective.blogspot.com

New information from research in Toronto could help improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplants for patients suffering from leukemia (and other cancers and immune disorders). Studies in mice, which were confirmed with samples from humans, showed that stem cells from bone ends are better at regenerating blood cells and immune system cells than the stem cells located in the shafts of bones. Not only are these cells better at regenerating, but they also work more efficiently and for longer periods of time than cells from the middle of the bones.

If doctors are able to collect stem cells that are more efficient, bone marrow transplants could not only be improved, but may be able to be effective for more people. The next step is to investigate the best ways of retrieving these superior stem cells. It’s exciting research, and could prove to really make a difference in bone marrow transplant methods. Stay tuned!

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/the-canadian-press/130801/location-location-best-stem-cells-bone-marrow-transplant-at-