Stem Cells Key to Treating Deadly Skin Disease
A high-risk bone marrow transplant has successfully treated patients with a rare, often-fatal skin disease, evidence of the promise stem cell therapies hold, new research suggests. Seven children with recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, or RDEB, participated in the experimental therapy, and five were partially cured. One child died before the transplantation; another later succumbed to a post-transplant infection, according to a study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The trial marks the first time bone marrow stem cells were used to treat something other than diseased or damaged marrow. RDEB is considered an incurable genetic disorder that causes painful blisters on the skin, mouth, and throat, and often leads to infection or skin cancer. The surviving patients who received the experimental treatment continue to show improvement and are in better overall health, the Los Angeles Times reports.
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H1N1 Not a Threat, But Vaccine Still Warranted
Swine flu is back in the news. Remember last summer when we were donning face masks and begging our docs for Tamiflu? And who could forget those three-hour lines to get vaccinated? All the while, we were getting mixed messages from well-intentioned but overwhelmed health officials, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz writes. The White House warned that up to 90,000 Americans could die of swine flu, now known as H1N1virus. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told us not to panic even though manufacturers they hired were months behind in producing the vaccine. Well, this week brings another round of confusing news: The World Health Organization declared that the H1N1 pandemic is officially over. "The new H1N1 virus has largely run its course," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan at a news teleconference on Tuesday. Yet guess what? The CDC is putting H1N1 into this year's flu vaccine, which also includes two other viruses.
Seems crazy, but the decision to include H1N1 makes sense because the virus is still circulating worldwide. "Based on experience with past pandemics," said Chan, "we expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behavior of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come." So, yes, it's important to get vaccinated against the flu this year, and, yes, folks can still get this year's combination shot even if they were already vaccinated against H1N1 last year. [Read more: H1N1 Not a Threat, But Vaccine Still Warranted.]
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3 Ways to Get Your Doctor to Take Your Pain Seriously
How can you, as a patient, avoid misunderstandings with your doctor? Consider trying these communication tactics, writes family physician Kenny Lin:
For starters, speak up. A recent study found that doctors were more likely to be aware of their patients' individual health beliefs when their patients "asked questions, expressed concerns, and stated their opinions." The aim is to be polite but persistent in making sure your doctor understands your personal preferences.
Also, don't be afraid to disagree. If your doctor seems to be shrugging off your symptoms as "all in your head" or suggesting what seems to be an unreasonable course of action, make sure you fully explain why you disagree. Perhaps this pain feels different or lasts longer than the usual aches, or perhaps you can't comprehend how your doctor reached a particular diagnosis based on your medical history. Sometimes challenging your doctor can reveal mistakes. And doctors, like everyone else, make them from time to time. [Read more: 3 Ways to Get Your Doctor to Take Your Pain Seriously.]
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