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Published: Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 2:31 PM
Updated: Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 2:31 PM
CLEVELAND — Two fertility clinics across the country from each other experienced equipment failures on the same day that may have damaged hundreds of frozen eggs and embryos, something that a fertility expert called a stunning coincidence and that is already producing lawsuits from crestfallen couples.
Lawyers for Amber and Elliott Ash, of the Cleveland suburb of Bay Village, and an unidentified Pennsylvania couple have sued University Hospitals after its fertility clinic in suburban Cleveland discovered a storage tank malfunction March 4 and said last week that as many as 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos may have been damaged.
The lawsuits come as a San Francisco fertility clinic said thousands of frozen eggs and embryos may have been damaged in a liquid nitrogen failure in a storage tank on the same day.
Lawyers for the couples who went to the Ohio clinic are seeking class action status, which would require approval from a judge. The Ashes said they stored two embryos at a University Hospitals fertility clinic in suburban Cleveland after Elliott's cancer diagnosis in 2003. They said they were told over the weekend that their embryos are no longer viable.
"It's heartbreaking, just heartbreaking," Amber Ash told WEWS-TV. "The medical community calls it tissue. I like to think of it as my children."
The couple has a 2-year-old son conceived through in-vitro fertilization and hoped to bring him a genetic sibling.
"With this lawsuit, we will get answers and stop this from happening again," said Mark DiCello, an attorney for the Ashes.
The Pennsylvania couple was beginning to set up a time last week for transferring a frozen embryo to the woman's womb when they later were told something went wrong, attorneys said. They had spent eight years trying to become parents and were devastated, attorney Lydia Floyd said.
University Hospitals officials said that that they are determined to help the patients who lost eggs and embryos, and that the lawsuit will not affect an independent review.
Dr. Carl Herbert, president of the Pacific Fertility Clinic in San Francisco, told ABC News in an interview released Monday that a senior embryologist noticed the nitrogen level in one tank was very low during a routine check of the tanks March 4.
That embryologist, Herbert said, "immediately rectified" the problem by refilling the tank. The embryos, he said, were later transferred to a new tank.
The clinic is sending letters to about 500 patients "that may have been involved in this tank," Herbert said. It has put in place more failsafe measures to prevent a repeat.
Dr. Kevin Doody, lab director at the Center for Assisted Reproduction in Texas and past president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, told The Associated Press that the nearly simultaneous storage failures are "beyond stunning" but appear to be "just a bad, bad, bad coincidence."
"It's two black swan events happening in the same day," he said. "One of them causes the beehive to buzz. Two? We're all in shock,"
Nobody knows so far of any connection between the two failures, he said.
The industry in the long run will end up being safer because there will be investigations and other facilities will examine their own backup measures and alarm systems, he said.
Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 3:41 PM
DALLAS, Texas — A special education teacher in Texas is fighting for her life after contracting both flu strains.
Crystal Whitley, 35, was physically active and had no underlying physical conditions, friends told WFAA, when she contracted both strains of influenza two weeks ago. She then developed pneumonia in both lungs and a MRSA infection.
While she is showing some signs of improvement, Whitley remains on life support at Baylor Scott & White, WFAA reported.
Whitley received a flu shot after giving birth in October, friends told WFAA.
Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 6:37 PM
— A group of scientists are touting an infertility "breakthrough" after human eggs have been grown in a lab from their earliest stages to the point of potential fertilization for the first time.
Researchers from the United Kingdom and the United States conducted the research, recently publishing their results in the scientific journal Molecular Human Reproduction.
Taking ovarian tissue from 10 women in their late 20s and 30s, the scientists activitated the eggs to develop from their earliest stage to maturity, using different cocktails of nutrients. In total, 48 eggs reached the second to the last stage of maturity and nine reached full maturity.
"It's very exciting to obtain proof of principle that it's possible to reach this stage in human tissue," Dr. Evelyn Telfer, one of the researchers, told the BBC, discussing the results.
However, Telfer cautioned that much more research needs to be conducted before the technique could be used by fertilization clinics. Widespread implementation of the procedure could still be years away.
"But that has to be tempered by the whole lot of work needed to improve the culture conditions and test the quality of the oocytes [eggs]," she said.
"Apart from any clinical applications, this is a big breakthrough in improving understanding of human egg development."
The process would make it much easier for women to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF), if developed fully, The Telegraph reported. They would simply have a small tissue biopsy, instead of distressing rounds of hormone-triggered ovulation.
Experts also suggest the breakthrough could lead to new approaches to fertility preservation for women at risk of premature fertility loss, such as those undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Young girls who have not yet gone through puberty could even preserve and freeze their ovarian tissue for future implantation.
At the same time, some scientists caution that the approach could have drawbacks for those with cancer.
"The big worry, and the big risk, is can you put cancer cells back," Dr. Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynecologist at Hammersmith Hospital, who was not involved with the study, told The Guardian.
At the same time, Telfer pointed out that it could be the only option for young girls who hope to get pregnant later in life after beating cancer.
"[For young girls] that is the only option they have to preserve their fertility." she said.
This new method could also dramatically increase the viable number of eggs that could be harvested from an individual woman about to undergo chemo.
With current techniques, patients must "go through the quick cycle of IVF before their chemo, so it can sometimes delay things, and also you may only get 15 eggs or so; because IVF is so inefficient, only having 10 or 15 eggs is not going to guarantee them a baby," Lavery explained.
"With this [new] procedure, you could potentially get thousands or hundreds of eggs," he said.
In the past, scientists have only managed to achieve partial growth of the human egg cells in a lab. The new study is groundbreaking in that the same human eggs were brought from their very earliest stages of development to the point when they would be released from the ovaries, ready for fertilization.
However, even as scientists are hailing the breakthrough, they also recognize potential problems and drawbacks.
The lab grown eggs reached maturity in just 22 days, while the process takes five months in the body. This makes it unclear whether they can readily combine with sperm to make a healthy embryo. Telfer thinks the quicker growth may simply be due to many inhibitory signals from the body being absent, but more research is needed to determine exactly.
"Significant further research is now needed to confirm that these eggs are healthy and functioning as they should do," Dr. Helen Picton, an expert in reproduction and early development from the University of Leeds, said.
Despite the remaining questions and need for further study, experts are hailing the results as "extraordinarily important."
Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 1:05 PM
— Having surgery to treat obesity may seem like a drastic option, but a new study suggests it may actually be a safer route than more traditional options.
Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Clalit Research Institute in Israel, recently published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The analyzed data, which traced patients history for 10 years, revealed that middle-aged men and women who had bariatric surgery have a death rate 50 percent lower than those who had traditional obesity treatments (such as dietary changes, behavioral adjustments and exercise).
"We showed that a long-term effect of bariatric surgery is a longer life for obese patients," study co-author Dr. Philip Greenland, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University said in a news release. "They had half the death rate, which is significant."
Among individuals who did not have surgery, the rate of death was 2.3 percent as opposed to 1.3 percent in those who had surgery. Researchers analyzed the medical data of 8,385 people who had the surgery (65 percent women and 35 percent men), compared to 25,155 who chose non-invasive treatments.
After the data was adjusted to take into account factors such as sex, age and related diseases, the researchers noted that individuals who did not have a bariatric procedure were twice as likely to be dead within the ten year period of the study.
Additionally, bariatric surgery patients showed a greater reduction in body mass index (BMI), improved blood pressure and lower rates of new diabetes diagnosis. A higher percentage of those who had diabetes, and chose surgery, went into remission as well.
"Surgery sounds like a radical approach to managing obesity, and a lot of people reject it because it seems like a risky thing to do, but it's actually less risky to have the surgery," Greenland told The Guardian.
At the same time, the studies authors have cautioned that surgery may not be right for everyone. The new study also has limitations, as it was an analysis of patient data and not randomized. It's possible that those who chose to forego surgery were already sicker than their counterparts.
The risks of obesity surgery and its potential complications have long been highlighted by physicians as well.
Ray Shidrawi, a leading doctor in the United Kingdom, warned against the procedure in an interview with The Independent in 2015. Citing serious complications, Shidrawi said the surgery can "ruin people's quality of life and can affect you for the rest of your life – or at least for months and years afterwards."
"I've got patients who've not eaten solid food for four years. They have to live on soup. They can't go to a restaurant in case they vomit up their food because it gets stuck in their throat," he explained.
But another smaller recently published study also appears to corroborate the potentially greater health benefits of bariatric surgery.
Looking at 113 patients, who had been treated for obesity through traditional methods and/or surgery, the research showed those who underwent a bariatric procedure lost more weight after one year. A higher percentage of those who underwent surgery had also achieved their goals for cholesterol, systolic blood pressure and a benchmark for glucose.
"Bariatric surgery is an increasingly frequent treatment for severe obesity," Dr. Laura Rasmussen-Torvik, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern, who was a co-author of the first-mentioned study, said, according to Jerusalem Post.
"It's highly effective in promoting weight loss but is also invasive and can lead to short and long-term complications. For patients and doctors to make the best-informed decisions about what weight-loss strategies to pursue, they need to understand the true costs and benefits of the procedures."
Although Greenland believes bariatric surgery may be a lifesaver for many, he also cautions of taking the new studies findings as the all-encompassing answer on obesity.
Published: Saturday, January 27, 2018 @ 3:29 PM
Updated: Saturday, January 27, 2018 @ 3:18 PM
— Mosquitoes can be really irritating, but there is one simple thing you can do to get rid of them. Just swat, a new report says.
Researchers from the University of Washington recently conducted an experiment, published in Current Biology, to further explore what attracts the bugs to certain host species.
To do so, they examined mosquitoes and their patterns. They found that the bugs can quickly learn and remember the smells of hosts as they store that information to develop preferences for particular agents.
However, they also pick up on movement, such as swatting. In fact, they can learn to associate an odor with an unpleasant gesture, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
They tested their theory by training the mosquitoes to pair a scent from a person or animal with a “mechanical shock,” which simulated swatting. The insects soon noticed the link between the two senses and flew in a different direction away from the hosts.
“Once mosquitoes learned odors in an aversive manner, those odors caused aversive responses on the same order as responses to DEET, which is one of the most effective mosquito repellents,” senior author Jeff Riffel said in a statement.
The scientists also discovered that dopamine is essential to mosquito learning, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. During the second part of the study, they monitored the neurons in their brains. They found that without dopamine, “those neurons were less likely to fire,” leaving the mosquitoes with less ability to retain information.
“By understanding how mosquitoes are making decisions on whom to bite, and how learning influences those behaviors, we can better understand the genes and neuronal bases of the behaviors,” said Riffell. “This could lead to more effective tools for mosquito control.”
Researchers now want to further their investigations to determine how mosquitoes learn and remember sensations connected to their favored hosts.