Category Archives: Medicine

Do Bones Grow Back Stronger?

Image result for broken bone

Photo from WebMD

Isabel Draper

Some people may say  that a broken bone will grow back stronger. After an inflammatory or “clean up” phase, followed by a reparative phase where first cartilage and then bone bridges the fracture,  the final stage of bone healing is the remodeling stage. A bone generally reaches 80-90% of its original strength in 3 to 6 months, but doesn’t complete remodeling and get to 100% strength for about a year.

During the reparative or second phase of bone healing, a callus forms at the site of the break. This callus is gradually replaced with woven bone. During the remodeling stage, the woven bone will be replaced with lamellar bone. The completion of this final stage may take anywhere from several months to a few years but once it is completed the bone will return to its original structure.  After the bone finishes the remodeling stage, its strength basically returns to what it was before. The bone at the fracture site is not less likely than the rest of the bone to break again and the bone doesn’t grow back stronger.

https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/did-you-know/broken-bones-grow-back-stronger-sort

https://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/health/19really.html

https://www2.aofoundation.org/wps/portal/surgerymobile?contentUrl=/srg/popup/further_reading/PFxM2/12_33_biol_fx_heal.jsp

Eating a placenta

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Photo from Motionisland

Victor Liaw

The placenta nurtures and protects the fetus as it develops in the mother’s womb. Once the child is born, the placenta is no longer needed. Some mothers in the United States have recently become fascinated with placentophagy: the practice of eating the placenta after childbirth. It’s a trend that has become more popular over the past decade.

Most mammalian mothers eat the placenta. It’s speculated to be either for nutrition or to mask evidence of childbirth from potential predators. By contrast, human placentophagy is unusual. One exception to this historical trend is in traditional Chinese medicine, in which dried human placenta is thought to help with exhaustion. This practice is cited by modern placental consumption proponents.

The placenta can be eaten dehydrated, raw, or even cooked as a meat substitute for  lasagna or pasta. The most prevalent method of consumption is in pill form. In a process known as encapsulation, the placenta is cleaned, dehydrated, ground up, and placed in capsules. Encapsulation is a service that private companies can provide for a few hundred dollars, but it can also be done at home.   

People eat the placenta in the hope that it will aid with hormone balance, decrease the incidence of postpartum depression, increase energy, speed healing after childbirth, increase lactation, and increase intake of micronutrients. However, most scientists agree that there is no proven benefit from eating human placenta. Research on this relatively taboo subject is very limited, and most scientific studies on the alleged benefits of placentophagy are self-reports instead of experiments. Self-reports are subject to potential bias when mothers who already have positive expectations and beliefs report a good response.

Although the benefits of placental consumption are doubtful, the risk of side effects from this practice are also very low. The CDC recently described a case of Group B strep infection in a young infant after coming into contact with his mother’s placenta pills. Currently, there is no standard for processing and preparing placenta to ensure it is bacteria-free. Therefore, though it may be easy to find favorable testimonials supporting placentophagy, it is not recommended by doctors and scientists.  

https://www.afterbirthanywhere.com/benefits-of-placentophagy.html

https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(17)30963-8/fulltext

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6625a4.htm

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2017/10/18/dont-eat-your-placenta-researchers-warn/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2511dbfde40e

How Effective Will CAR T-Cell Therapy be in Treating Solid Tumor Cancers?

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Source: Mesothelioma

Guest Piece written by David Haas

David Haas is a health advocate specializing in mesothelioma. He works to ensure the continuation of awareness about the disease and supports active research being conducted to find a cure.

 The American Cancer Society estimates that almost 2 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States this year. Oncologists and researchers are working to develop new treatment options in hopes of increasing both the duration and quality of life of people with cancer. One relatively new treatment (CAR T-cell therapy) extracts and modifies T cells from the blood (type of immune cell), gives them a receptor that directs them to the specific type of cancer (Chimeric Antigen Receptor, or CAR) the patient has, and then places them back into the bloodstream. Patients are monitored closely because reintroduction of a large number of T cells can lead to life threatening complications. One possible complication is Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS): the release of an excess of cytokines (an inflammatory molecule). CRS can cause a steep drop in blood pressure, high fever, and swelling of the brain, which can be fatal. These risks do not deter many patients who have limited treatment options left.

Given the success of CAR T-cell therapy for liquid tumors such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL; 83 percent remission rate in some clinical trials) there is discussion of how this treatment could impact solid tumors. However, site-specific drug delivery is more difficult for solid cancers.

The National Cancer Institute recently granted 11 million dollars to the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center to study T cell therapy for solid tumors. This research will focus on a rare lung cancer known as malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), which has a notoriously poor prognosis. For people with late-stage mesothelioma, it’s unusual to live more than two years after diagnosis. If successful, research interest in CAR T-cell therapy for rare solid tumors may expand.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) researchers have enrolled 12 people with MPM in a clinical trial of CAR-T-cell therapy. The early results are promising, showing no signs of toxicity, with one patient remaining clinically well eight months after T cell infusion.

It may be a while before this treatment is widely available, as one hurdle is price. The two FDA approved T cell treatments cost more than $370,000. This price would leave the average cancer patient in a debilitating amount of debt even with optimal insurance coverage. Regulators are looking to have these prices reduced.

While research may establish CAR T-cell therapy as effective for solid tumor cancers such as mesothelioma, the timeframe for accessible treatment may be several more years since it is experimental and prohibitively expensive.

***If you are interested in writing a guest piece on our website about a topic of interest, please feel free to reach out to us at kavyarajesh@utexas.edu and David.Ring@austin.utexas.edu to discuss an idea. We hope you enjoyed this piece and we look forward to hearing from you!

 

Sources

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/17726-car-t-cell-therapy/risks–benefits

https://labiotech.eu/features/car-t-therapy-cancer-review/

https://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/

https://www.targetedonc.com/publications/targeted-therapy-news/2018/august-2018/early-signs-of-efficacy-seen-with-mesothelin-car-tcell-therapy