Health Features

Health Flash: 12.12.18

rogue cells
Kidney organoids are clusters of cells grown in-lab from human stem cells, and scientists hope that one day they may be used to develop new treatments for kidney disease. However, new research from Washington University School of Medicine has identified wayward brain and muscle cells in kidney organoids. The discovery indicates that the methods used to coax stem cells into becoming kidney cells inadvertently create other cell types as well. Published in Cell Stem Cell, the study looked at two ‘recipes’ widely used to channel the development of stem cells into kidney cells. After growing the organoids for four weeks, researchers used single-cell RNA sequencing to analyze more than 80,000 cells from 65 organoids. Regardless of the recipe used, 10 to 20 percent of the stem cells became brain and muscle cells. By reconstructing the process step by step, the team was able to determine where development went wrong and reduce the number of wayward cells formed. The approach created is adoptable across different types of organoids, such as those for the brain, lung or heart.

liver transplants
Saint Louis University School of Medicine received a Mid-America Transplant Foundation Clinical Innovation grant to study liver transplant rejection. The two-year grant will allow the school to work toward new methods for detecting rejection by measuring levels of the protein component Cytokeratin 18 (CK-18) via a blood test. The current standard for diagnosing rejection is a liver biopsy, which requires surgery. The study will measure CK-18 levels in blood samples obtained from post-transplant patients and compare it to liver rejection activity index scores to develop a noninvasive biomarker. The principal investigator will be Dr. Ajay Jain, a SLUCare pediatric hepatologist and gastroenterologist and medical director of the pediatric liver transplant program at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. Co-investigators are Dr. Chintalapati Varma, a SLUCare transplant surgeon and surgical director of pediatric liver transplantation, and Dr. Caroline Meyer, a SLUCare gastroenterologist.

new concussion recommendations
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated its concussion recommendations for children and teens. Dr. Mark Halstead, associate professor of pediatrics and orthopedic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, was the lead author of the report, which revised the guidelines for the first time in eight years. Previously, the AAP recommended that children avoid activity and electronics due to concerns that both were too stimulating and might hinder the brain’s recovery. “We’ve learned that keeping kids in dark rooms and eliminating all cognitive and physical activity actually worsened a lot of symptoms rather than improving them,” Halstead says. Studies have shown that children who are prohibited from activities and electronics can develop feelings of social isolation, anxiety or depression. While young athletes should stop playing immediately when a concussion is suspected, light physical activity should be incorporated as part of their recovery. Similarly, while academic workloads may need to be lessened, students shouldn’t miss school for prolonged periods or disengage from learning.