Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Well-Known Teen with Rapid-Aging Disease Dies
An American teen whose life with the rapid-aging disease
progeria was chronicled in a documentary film that's being
considered for an Academy Award has died.
Sam Berns, 17, died Friday in Boston from complications of the
disease. He had been planning to apply to college and hoped to
study cell biology or genetics,
The New York Timesreported.
He was an Eagle Scout, played the drums, enjoyed math, science
and comic books, and was a fan of Boston-area sports teams.
Sam was born in Providence, R.I. on Oct. 23, 1996 to parents Dr.
Scott Berns and Dr. Leslie Gordon, both physicians. He was
diagnosed with progeria just before age 2. His parents could find
little medical literature about progeria so they, along with Leslie
Gordon's sister Audrey Gordon, created the Progeria Research
Foundation in 1999.
Progeria is extremely rare, affecting one in four million to one
in eight million babies. The genetic condition causes rapid
premature aging and patients experience stunted growth, hair loss,
heart problems and joint deterioration,
The gene that causes the disease was isolated in 2003, but there
is still no cure. On average, patients live to age 13 and typically
die of heart attack or stroke.
"Life According to Sam" begins when Sam is 13 and follows him for three years. In the film, Sam explains why he agreed to take part: "I didn't put myself in front of you to have you feel bad for me," he says. "You don't need to feel bad for me. Because I want you to get to know me. This is my life."
The documentary, which was broadcast on HBO in October and has
been shown at film festivals, is among 15 documentaries being
considered for Oscar nominations,
"No matter what I choose to become, I believe that I can change the world," Sam said during a talk at a TEDx conference talk last year. "And as I'm striving to change the world, I will be happy."
Nine Womb Transplant Patients Doing Well: Swedish
Nine women who received transplanted wombs donated by relatives
are doing well and will soon try to become pregnant, according to
the doctor leading the groundbreaking project.
Two previous attempts at womb transplants in Turkey and Saudi
Arabia were not successful in enabling women to have babies.
"This is a new kind of surgery," Dr. Mats Brannstrom, chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Gothenburg, told the Associated Press. "We have no textbook to look at."
Many of the nine women who received the womb transplants had
their periods six weeks after the transplants, an indication that
their wombs are healthy and functioning. The first of the
transplants was conducted in September 2012. All of the women left
hospital within days after transplant surgery.
The women in the project were born without a uterus or had it
removed after being diagnosed with cervical cancer. Most of them
are in their 30s. The donors included mothers and other female
relatives of the recipients, the
The recipients' transplanted uteruses were not connected to the
fallopian tubes, so they can't get pregnant naturally. But all of
the women have their own ovaries and their eggs were used to create
embryos through in-vitro fertilization. The doctors plan to
transfer the women's frozen embryos into their new wombs.
Next month, Brannstrom and colleagues will host the first-ever
workshop on how to perform this type of womb transplant and plan to
publish a scientific paper on their project. Brannstrom said that
the transplants might not result in babies but felt optimistic.
"This is a research study," he told the AP. "It could lead to (the women) having children, but there are no guarantees ... what is certain is that they are making a contribution to science."
The use of live donors for uterus transplants is somewhat
controversial. Doctors in Britain who are planning to perform
uterus transplants will only use wombs from dying or dead
This was the approach used by doctors in Turkey last year. That
patient conceived but the pregnancy failed after two months. The
first uterus transplant was performed in Saudi Arabia in 2000,
using a live donor. The transplanted uterus had to be removed after
three months due to a blood clot, the
'Teen Mom' Shows May Have Cut Teen Pregnancy Rate: Study
Two television series that follow teen girls through pregnancy,
delivery and early motherhood may have prevented more than 20,000
births to American teens in 2010, according to a new study.
It concluded that "16 and Pregnant" and a spinoff called "Teen
Mom" reduced the U.S. teen birth rate by nearly six percent,
The New York Timesreported. The study was to be released
Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The programs are among MTV's most-watched programs. Each episode
of "16 and Pregnant" follows a different teen as she goes through
pregnancy, birth and the first few weeks of motherhood, while "Teen
Mom" continues the stories of the young mothers and their
By stressing the consequences of unprotected sex, educating
teens about the difficulties of having a child, and prompting
discussions about birth control and pregnancy, the shows seemed to
have reduced the teenage birth rate, according to the study by
Melissa Kearney, the director of the Hamilton Project, a research
group in Washington, and Phillip Levine of Wellesley College.
"It's thrilling," Sarah Brown, the chief executive of the nonprofit National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, told The Times. "People just don't understand how influential media is in the lives of young people."
Kathryn Edin, a poverty researcher at Harvard University, said
the shows may help teens overcome "don't ask, don't tell"
situations where they don't talk with each other about their
expectations. This lack of communication can lead to unintended
"Families born by accident, rather than design, are bad for men, bad for women and really bad for kids," Edin told The Times.
But the shows have critics.
"Only 40 percent of teenage mothers ever graduate high school; two-thirds of families begun by an unmarried teen mother are poor," said a review of the program by the Media Research Center, a conservative organization. "So what does MTV do? It shows how cool teen pregnancy is with a new reality series."
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