Posts Tagged ‘Kidney’

Stem Cells to the rescue!

June 23, 2009

There have been a lot of advances concerning Stem Cells recently. Just mention the phrase “Stem Cells” and the hair stands up on your arms: it is a controversial subject with lots of questions and very few good answers. Most of the answers generate still more questions, so it seems we just can’t win.

But these therapies involve Adult Stem Cells, which are not very controversial. Most people can agree that reusing your own Stem Cells – hey, all we’re doing is recycling! – is a good thing. Adult Stems usually doesn’t lead to people marching in the streets.

If you need a new heart valve, maybe your mom can help. Scientists in Germany predict that within five years, we’ll be able to grow new heart valves from the Stem Cells found in umbilical cord blood! Researchers in Oakland, California have also found that the placenta is an excellent source of Stem Cells – perhaps even better than umbilical cords.

I don’t think that Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) will ever be eradicated or “cured.” There are just too many variations and factors at work. I do think that we’ll eventually be able to stop them in their tracks through surgical improvements, medications, and better science. This is a good example of that school of thought. So don’t be surprised to hear about more and more expectant moms saving cord blood and their child’s placenta- you just never know!

Another Stem Cell advance – currently being used with kidney transplants – is to “borrow” Stem Cells from a donor to cut the chance of rejection. The idea is to trick the recipient’s body into thinking the new kidney is a natural organ, or at least to not attack it as hard. The study is in its early stages, perhaps if it shows promise another study will try it on hearts. It could take quite a while to prove or disprove the theory, but properly done medical research moves in small steps.

Another advance in Stem Cells we’ve discussed before: Stem Cells injected directly into the heart to combat heart failure. The doctors take a sample of tissue, usually from the patients thigh, collect the Stem Cells and grow them in a culture for a few days. After that it’s back to the operating room, where they are injected directly into the heart. Ouch! But the Stem Cells usually transform into heart cells, and the efficiency of the damaged heart muscle improves.

One of the dangers of this procedure is that the heart has to be stopped before the cells are injected, then restarted. But this new approach tries a different strategy:  The Stem Cells are injected into skeletal muscle. It works just as well – perhaps better – and doctors don’t have to stop and restart a fragile heart.

Here we go!

December 28, 2008

I was searching for tweets related to heart defects on Twitter and noticed the the phase “Children’s Hospital” was one of the popular phrases being typed. I traced back to the original post and found this:

OMG-Children’s Hosp of Philly just called…THEY FOUND A KIDNEY FOR MY 15 YO DAUGHTER!!!! TRANSPLANT AT 3 AM! PLEASE PRAY FOR US! RETWEET!”

Wow! The message was posted about an hour ago, so the writer (domestic_diva) and her family are probably burning rubber towards the hospital right now! I have no idea who domestic diva (or her daughter) is, but it is always great to get news like this.

The best of luck to you, and the Funky Heart will keep you close in his thoughts tonight. If you want to keep up with events as they happen, go to your Twitter page and follow domestic_diva.

A Weighty Matter

September 9, 2008

I got on the scale this morning and my weight was 160 pounds… down one pound from yesterday. Still a bit heaver than I want it to be, but it is an improvement and I’ll take it.

And when I went to the seafood restaurant today, I passed on the chicken fingers and went to the salad bar. Sometimes, you have to do these things.

Your weight is critical when you have Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). Contrary to popular belief, Heart Failure does not mean that the heart “failed”, so to speak, but it is getting into trouble. There are a lot of things you can do to help it out, and losing weight is one of them.

When your heart fails, it loses its ability to pump effectively. Like a rubber ball that is bounced too many times, it has lost some of its elasticity, and is not pumping your blood as efficiently as it once was. One of the results is that your kidneys are not getting the blood flow they once did, and the toxins in your body aren’t being cleaned out as good as they once were. So your kidneys send a message to your brain: ‘Hey, we’re having some trouble down here.”

The brain sends orders to the heart: “Stop loafing, and work harder down there!” And like a good soldier the heart tries its best… which leads to the heart muscle getting weaker. The kidneys still aren’t cleaning the blood… and it becomes a cycle.

After being diagnosed with CHF, the patient is usually told to drop some weight, exercise, control his sodium and liquid intake, and prescribed diuretics. The more weight that comes off, the easier a job the heart has, and the diuretics certainly help in that area.

What is a diuretic? They are sometimes called “water pills”, and if that doesn’t give you a hint, they make you urinate… hopefully a lot. Diuretics help the kidneys do their job more effectively, and since most of your weight gain in Heart Failure is going to be liquid based, so much the better. Trust me, whenever you walk into a store from now on, you’ll scan the building for signs that say “restroom”.

Weight is so important to someone in CHF that they are told to start keeping a record of how much they weigh every day. You should start your day by going to the bathroom first thing, and then weighing yourself. ONLY WEIGH ONCE A DAY. Your weight fluctuates during the day, and weighing every few hours will drive you batty. You should not be dressed when you weigh, and you should strive to wear about the same thing every time you weigh. Be consistant.

This number is going to be very important – it’s almost like a “tripwire”. If you gain more than 3 pounds in a day and there is not a good reason (Overindulged at your recent birthday party, for example – sorry, doc!) then you need to call your doctor’s office and report it. He/She will probably instruct you to take an extra diuretic and see what happens, or if it is extreme, you may be told to come in to the office. Weather changes will cause your weight to fluctuate, also. I’ve learned that if it is raining when I get up, my weight is probably going to be up a little bit. As time passes and you learn how your body reacts, the doctor may allow you to take extra diuretics without calling in, but until you are explicitly told that you can do that, make the call and ask permission.

Fighting Congestive Heart Failure is not easy… but it can be done. CHF is not the death sentance it used to be.