Health Flash

Health Flash: 5.18.16

» transplant hope
As part of a clinical trial, surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine have designed a device to recondition sub-par donor lungs for transplant. The device has the potential to increase the number of transplantable lungs. Wash. U. is one of 16 U.S. medical institutions participating in the trial; 250 patients nationwide will be enrolled. “Currently, many more patients need lung transplants than there are available donors,” says Dr. Daniel Kreisel, professor of surgery, who adds that lungs are one of the most difficult organs to transplant because of their spongy elasticity. The device maintains lungs in a ‘body-like’ environment by circulating a nutrient solution and ventilating them at body temperature. The sterile, controlled setting and lengthened time the lung remains viable outside the body allow surgeons to assess the organs more thoroughly, and the lungs to recover from the inflammatory shock that follows brain death.

» exposure to fear
SLUCare clinical psychologist Dr. Suma Chand is helping patients address irrational, life-limiting fears with exposure therapy. “Studies have shown that certain exercises—small controlled steps that build gradual exposure to the fear-triggering event or thing—can bring about changes in brain activity and counter fear’s debilitating effects. Chand says she uses exposure therapy combined with cognitive restructuring (the process of identifying and disputing irrational thought), to help patients face their fears.

» zika mice models
Two mouse models of Zika virus infection in pregnancy have been developed by researchers at Washington University. The models show how the virus travels from the bloodstream into the placenta, and then on through the fetal circulation to the pups’ developing brains. The models allow researchers to study the virus and provide a basis for developing vaccines and treatments. “We hope to be able to use this research to find out whether vaccinating the mother can protect against uterine infection,” says Dr. Michael Diamond, co-senior author of the research, which recently was published in Cell. Microcephaly, which is marked by abnormally small heads, is the most striking result of human infection. While this condition was not observed in either mouse model, Zika infection caused either death or a reduction in size in the mice. Not all babies born to women with Zika during pregnancy develop microcephaly. But it is still unknown whether such babies will face developmental challenges later in life, Diamond says.

» asthma and stress 
A stressful day may make nightly asthma attacks in children more likely, say researchers at Washington University. Lead author Dr. Caroline Horner of the Department of Pediatrics says she wanted to focus more on smaller, daily stresses rather than larger ones. For about 12 weeks, 46 children with diagnosed asthma answered the question, “How was your day today?” and rated it very bad, bad, good or very good. “If they rated their day as anything other than ‘very good,’ they were twice as likely to wake with asthma symptoms,” Horner says, adding that stress may activate the steroids that turn on immune cells called ‘mast cells’ in the lungs. Mast cells release histamines during an allergic reaction. Kids the next day tended to use more albuterol and prednisone, and they had more missed school days and more contact with doctors,” Horner says. The findings were published online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.