Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Bright Idea

Today, I helped launch a new blog called Preeclampsia Survivors.


I'm pretty proud of it since I helped conceive the concept and then worked it through to completion. I hope that other preeclampsia survivors will benefit from the blog.

It will grow in time, but I'm happy to help other PE moms feel less alone with their guilt over having had preeclampsia.

Maybe this time next year, we'll have regular bloggers contributing content. We'll see what lies ahead, but it was fun putting together.


Scientists Use Umbilical Cord Stem Cells to Grow Livers

Scientists Use Stem Cells to Grow Tiny Livers in Lab

British scientists used umbilical-cord stem cells to grow small artificial livers in the laboratory, a breakthrough that could be the first step in being able to grow full-sized livers for human transplants.

These tiny livers -- smaller than a penny -- can already be used for drug testing, reducing the need to conduct such tests on humans and animals, The Times of London reported.

The Newcastle University scientists placed the umbilical-cord stem cells in a bioreactor, a device developed by NASA to mimic the effects of weightlessness. In this gravity-free environment, the stem cells were able to multiple more quickly than normal. The scientists added hormones and chemicals to instruct the stem cells to turn into liver tissue.

"We cannot build a full-sized [liver] yet -- that will take about 10 years -- but this is the first important step," researcher Nico Forraz told The Times. "And we have excellent facilities... to be able to make this happen. We expect this to really take off within the next 18 months or so."

Source: www.healthday.com

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Beautiful Soul

An extremely tiny, beautiful soul entered Heaven on Friday.

Only his mother and father truly knew him. They knew his potential, his unending love, and what could have been his future. Even though I never met him, I feel as if I knew him inside and out. I'm not sure that makes logical sense, but I'll try explaining.

I simply knew of him as Jack.

He was growing inside my friend, Jack's mom. His mommy was so proud to be creating him that she told me when she was only 5 weeks pregnant. It was a secret, but I was absolutely honored to know my friend would become a mother. I was elated for her, and glad to have a new mommy to welcome to the world of parenting.

Even through all day sickness, Jack's mom was a fighter. Her strong and bright spirit helped her to keep her eye on the prize. Having also experienced all day sickness, I could sympathize immensely.

From the moment I first spoke with Jack's mom when I was 17, I saw her spirit was strong and bright. Even though Jack's mom didn't always know she was strong, I knew it. She proved it everyday that she would stay up late sharing her thoughts or just being silly with me. She never judged me or my circumstances. We had the best of times together. These times meant and still mean the world to me.

Unfortunately for Jack's parents, horrible circumstances unfolded. Jack's strong and bright spirit was held in a less than perfect body. He had to leave this world too soon, and leave his parents behind.

I've been praying for Jack and his parents. Even though they don't have him to hug and hold anymore, they will never forget their first born son, who made them parents. Jack's mom will forever be a proud mommy. Welcome to the club, Ames. I only wish you could have had more time with your dear sweet, little boy. I love you!

Oh and one more thing, hey Jack, up there with the angels, you need to know one very important thing about your mommy. She is so very proud of you little man, and she'll miss you forever.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Cha, Cha, Cha, Changes...

I just got back from airport hell. Atlanta shut down due to a very bad rain storm yesterday afternoon, and as a result, all of the flights in the entire airport were either cancelled or delayed. Ick! I definitely could have thought of a better way to spend the time.

I was so looking forward to sleeping in my own bed after the awful hotel bed. Well, dear hubby decided to give me a brand new matress for my birthday. First change, upon reentry, that I perceived.

He also decided to put Meghan into her first official "big girl bed" while I was away. Another change that I missed.

Meghan went trick or treating for the very first time tonight while I was in airport hell...another change that I missed.

Some of my oldest friends called me while I was away. They were inquiring about our shared friend who went through the worst experience of her life while I was away. Another change that I missed.

I hate change right now. There is simply too much for me to handle right now. Is it too much to ask that if I go away for 2 days that when I return things are mostly the same? Guess it is, at least today.

Happy Birthday to me. I'm 34 today, and my only plan is to check in with aforementioned old friend to see how she is doing. Please pray for her. Thanks!


Thursday, October 26, 2006

I'm Missing Halloween!

Tomorrow is our neighborhood association's night time trick or treat event. I'm currently in a hotel room in Miami on business, and won't be home until after the girls have hit the candy parade. I'm sad and frustrated about that, but had little choice in the matter. I told Charlie he had better take pictures or else. LOL

On Saturday, I turn 34. I'm not quite sure what that means to me. Since I've been so busy with a crazy project at work, I haven't really had time to think about it. The other day, I realized that I'd be alone for most of the day since Charlie and the girls will be attending a band concert for Kesa in Madison. About a month ago, I chose not to go to the concert because of my birthday, but I didn't realize that I'd be alone. In response to this realization, I cried. Before any of my friends and family fire off an email to me or call me about it, please don't. I'm not looking for an invitation to being distracted from the fact that I won't be with the most important people in my world on my birthday (for part of the day). I just wanted to let out how I feel here in my journal. I find that feelings fester if I don't communicate them, and well folks, there really are much WORSE things than getting some alone time on my birthday. I've gained perspective on the matter, and am most concerned for one of my oldest friends.

She is going through the worst possible events right now, and I can't share what they are. All that I can ask is for you all to pray for my pal. She needs every single one she can get to help her get through grief.

Jen in Miami, FL

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Clueless Newbie Blogger Here

Today, I added a site meter to my blog and was feeling pretty proud of myself. That is until I went to republish my blog and accidentally stumbled upon unpublished comments that my visitors have been leaving for me. To those of you who left me comments, thank you so much! You made my day.

Gratuitous family picture:

I'm Tallin'!

This morning, Meghan was standing on our bed and having a good time with Char. Out of the blue, she says: "I'm tallin'!"

At first, I wondered what she meant, but then came my "ah ha" moment.

I said, "Oh! You are standing."

Gotta love the cute things kids say when they are learning to talk.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pioneering Immunosuppression...woohoo!


Pittsburgh, Pa.
Monday, July 24, 2006

Less drug better for transplant survival
Immune system can accept donor tissue
Monday, July 24, 2006

By Anita Srikameswaran, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A protocol that allows children who get intestinal transplants to minimize the drugs needed to prevent rejection appears also to improve their survival chances.

The regimen avoids steroids and encourages the immune system to welcome the donor tissue, explained Dr. Rakesh Sindhi, co-director of pediatric transplantation at Children's Hospital.

"There's no question, as we look back at our data, that using less drug has been better for these patients," he said. "Today we'll often send patients home with barely about three to four medicines. It used to be there would be about 10 to 15 of them."

Dr. Sindhi will present findings today and tomorrow from four studies at the World Transplant Congress in Boston.

One of them reviewed 75 children who between 2002 and 2006 had transplants of small bowel either alone or with a liver at Children's. Three years after their operations, 84 percent were still alive.

Before transplant physicians implemented the new protocol, two-year survival rates were about 70 percent, comparable to international figures, Dr. Sindhi noted.

The new approach, which is now routinely used at Children's, is definitely better because patients live longer and need fewer drugs, he said.

It's based on a premise proposed by transplant pioneer Dr. Thomas Starzl, of the University of Pittsburgh, and others that creating the right balance between patient cells and donor cells will favor the development of immunological tolerance.

Near the time of transplantation, patients get a drug called thymoglobulin, which depletes the number of immune system T-cells that could attack the donor organ.

No steroids are given after the surgery, Dr. Sindhi said. "That's our way of starting the drug reduction process right up front."

Steroids can slow growth in children and lead to diabetes and hypertension, among other problems.

A standard dose of an anti-rejection drug called Prograf is administered initially, but after about three months, it is rapidly reduced. In general, the intestinal transplant patients require about half the amount of the drug than had been the norm, and no steroids, the doctor said.

The same approach is being used in the transplantation of other organs at Children's.

Liver transplant recipients might get to the point where they don't need the medicine anymore, or only need it every other day in minimal doses. The liver has a greater capacity to regenerate, so it can recover more easily than the intestine or kidney from mild rejection episodes, Dr. Sindhi said.

"If rejection occurs, we treat it the same as we always have," with steroids and more medicine, he said. But "using this approach, we've noticed that rejections are not any worse than before."

Renee Rosner's daughter Adelynn, now 4, got a liver transplant when she was 9 months old and weighed 13 pounds. The North Huntingdon girl had biliary atresia, in which the ducts that drain bile from the liver are obstructed.

Adelynn had the thymoglobulin protocol during her transplant, but did need steroids because of mild rejection.

"She was the classic steroid baby," her mother said. "She was chubby with the big moon face, which for us, believe it or not, was almost a relief because she had been so skinny."

But Ms. Rosner was glad when the steroids were tapered, and Adelynn no longer needs them. The child used to take a total of 7 milligrams of Prograf each day, and now takes 2 milligrams once a day. That will soon be reduced again, Ms. Rosner said.

"The goal would be the need for no immunosuppressor [drug] at all," she said. " Quite honestly, I would be very happy with every other day."

As the Prograf dose has come down, Adelynn is sleeping better, her mother said. And if she no longer needs the antirejection drug, she should also be able to stop taking other medications that counteract its side effects.

(Anita Srikameswaran can be reached at anitas@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3858. )

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Asthma common in alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency patients

Asthma common in alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency patients
Aug 02, 2006 - Asthma is common in patients with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) and is usually associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), suggesting that patients with the deficiency should undergo allergy evaluation, say US scientists.

AATD contains a wide range of AAT phenotypes that confer varying susceptibility to obstructive lung disease and emphysema. The most common variant for homozygous severe deficiency is protease inhibitor (Pi) Z, giving the PiZZ phenotype.

Seeking to identify the prevalence of asthma and atopy in AATD individuals, Edward Eden, from Columbia University in New York, and colleagues sent a survey to 2418 individuals in the Alpha-1 Foundation Research Registry.

The 757 responses revealed that 44.6% had been diagnosed with asthma, while wheezing was reported by 76%. Common triggers were respiratory infections, activity and exposure to dusts, fumes, and allergens.

Dividing the patients into those with the PiZZ phenotype, those with the less severe PiMZ phenotype, and other phenotypes showed that the prevalence of asthma ranged from 20–25%, with wheezing significantly less common in the PiMZ group than in the others.

Of those with asthma, 83% of PiZZ individuals also had a diagnosis of COPD, compared with just 48% of those in the PiMZ group, the team writes in the journal Respiratory Medicine. Asthma was three times more prevalent as the only reported diagnosis in the PiMZ group than in the PiZZ group.

“Asthma is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish clinically from COPD in those with established airflow obstruction,” the researchers write.

“Given the overlap between asthma and COPD in this population and the potential impact of asthma on forced expiratory volume in 1 second loss, evaluation of the wheezy patient with AATD should include allergy testing and aggressive treatment to reduce bronchial hyperresponsiveness.”

Respir Med 2006; 100: 1384–1391