Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fisher-Price Recall Affects Over 10 Million Trikes, Other Products

More than 10 millions toys and other children's products from Fisher-Price have been recalled in an announcement made Sept. 30th. Two of the products, the Fisher-Price Trike and Tough Trike, have caused injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. The tricycles account for seven million of the items in the Fisher-Price recall.

You can find full list of Fisher-Price recall items at the recall section of the website of Mattel Inc., which makes Fisher-Price products. This list includes product numbers and instructions on how to find out if a product you have it affected by the recall.

The recalls issued today involve products sold in the U.S. and Canada. The products announced in the Fisher-Price recall (with links to the appropriate pages at the Mattel service website) include tricycles, rampway toy cars, and inflatable balls.

For more information, see the Consumer Product Safety Commission page on the Fisher-Price recall.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cargill Ground Beef Recall - Products Sold at BJ's Warehouse Stores

A recall has been issued for Cargill ground beef products sold at BJ's Wholesale Club in eight eastern U.S. states.

Three people in New York and Maine have been sickened since early August from tainted ground beef products from Cargill. All of the products were distributed to BJ's Wholesale Club stores. The eight states that have received recalled product are: New York, Maine, Connecticut, Virginia, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maryland.

See this article on the Cargill ground beef recall for details on the specific BJ's stores that received the tainted ground beef products involved in the recall.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tommy John Surgery: What It Is, How It Works

With the news that rookie baseball pitcher Stephen Strasburg may have to have Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged arm, this article gives a good, illustrated look at what this procedure is.

Medically known as ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery (UCLR), the procedure was a major advance in sports medicine in the 1970s, and got its nickname because Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John was the first baseball player to undergo the new procedure, pioneered by Dr. Frank Jobe. (The operation was a success, and John was able to resume his career.)

Tommy John surgery has a success rate of around 85%, and is considered to be one of the most important advances in sports medicine in the last quarter-century, if not the most important. After undergoing the operation, the patient must undergo rehab for a year, and a pitcher may have to work another year pitching to get back to the form he had before the surgery. But that's much better than the alternative.

Tommy John surgery involves reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), also called the medial collateral ligament, one of the ligaments connecting the upper arm bone (humerus) to the main forearm bone (ulna). The UCL can be damaged by repetitive stress, such as the throwing motion baseball players use.

In Tommy John surgery (which has been improved greatly since the 1970s), the damaged ligament is replaced with one harvested from another part of the patient's own body, such as the leg or forearm.
Read about Tommy John surgery at this article at what it is, how and why it's performed, what a patient can expect from it, and the complications that can occur.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Prader-Willi Syndrome - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, & More

Prader-Willi syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that can develop in infancy and eventually affect many body parts and systems by childhood. Infants with Prader-Willi syndrome may have poor muscle tone and difficulties in feeding. In childhood, individuals with the disorder will have have an overactive appetite and experience problems with chronic overeating, leading to quick weight gain and obesity.

Other symptoms of Prader-Willi syndrome can include learning disabilities, underdeveloped genitals (in both male and female patients), and short stature. It is estimated that Prader-Willi syndrome affects one in every 15,000 children.

See the article at for more information on Prader-Willi syndrome causes, symptoms, signs, diagnosis, and treatment.

You can also find more details and Prader-Willi syndrome support at the website of the Prader-Willi Association (USA).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Neurofibromatosis: A Genetic Disorder of the Nervous System

Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disease that mostly affects the development of nerve cells. Also called NF for short, neurofibromatosis has two forms, NF1 (more common) and NF 2 (less common). As a story from a Dallas TV station notes, neurofibromatosis is more common than you might think, affecting one in 3,000 people.

The U.S. government's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) has a neurofibromatosis information page that explains the disease in plain English. According to this page, "These disorders cause tumors to grow on nerves and produce other abnormalities such as skin changes and bone deformities." NINDS also has a handy neurofibromatosis fact sheet. Symptoms of NF1 are often noticeable at birth or in infancy, usually in the appearance of the skin.

You can find information and support for neurofibromatosis at the  Web site of the Neurofibromatosis, Inc. NINDS also has an article on the proceedings of a workshop on neurofibromatosis in children, addressing basic and clinical research, animal models, treatment, and more.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rebecca Skloot and HeLa Book Head Straight to Top of the Charts

Who would have thought that a book about aggressive cancer cells and the woman they came from would hit the top of the bestseller charts? When I wrote about Rebecca Skloot's "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" the day before it came out, I noted the great pre-pub press it had gotten, but I had no idea that in its first week it would be as high as number 2 on the sales chart, or that it would reach a similar position on the New York Times bestseller list.

Of course, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" has a lot going for it. It's an engaging, well-written book that is both an intriguing medical drama and a fascinating personal story of Ms. Lacks and her descendants.

What's more, Ms. Skoot is not only an experienced and knowledgeable science writer but an enthusiastic spokeswoman who loves talking HeLa and is adept as using social media to promote her book.

She's also open to using regular media that one might not think of for promoting a general interest science book. Yes, she's made appearances on CBS Sunday Morning and ABC World News, but she also was a guest on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report (I was fortunate enough to be in the audience for that taping).

For anyone interested in learning about HeLa and the Henrietta Lacks story, I recommend reading the book of course, but also trying to see Rebecca Skloot on her extensive book tour, which she's calling The Immortal Book Tour.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bill Clinton Hospitalized with Chest Discomfort; Stent Inserted in Coronary Arteries

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton experienced chest discomfort on Thursday and checked himself into a hospital, where he had stents inserted into one of his coronary arteries. Clinton, who is 63, underwent a quadruple bypass surgery six years ago to fix blocked arteries.

His cardiologist said that one of the coronary grafts he had at that time had become completely blocked, which is not uncommon.

The former president was taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, the same hospital that performed the bypass operation in 2004. The procedure was said to have gone smoothly, and Clinton is reportedly in good spirits and resting comfortably.

So what is coronary artery stenting? It's a relatively common procedure in which a tiny, uninflated balloon on the end of a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel and snaked through to the site of a buildup of plaque. Once in place the balloon is inflated to press the plaque up against the artery wall and widen the opening (a procedure known as a balloon angioplasty). The same balloon is then used to put in place a stent, a type of metal mesh screen that holds the artery open.

Clinton's doctor explains the president's procedure and his health in this video.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Henrietta Lacks: Unsung Pioneer of Medicine Now in the Spotlight

The name Henrietta Lacks may not be familiar to many laypeople (yet), but it's well known to scientists and doctors all over the world. The twist is that Lacks was not a researcher, but a patient.

A poor black woman diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951, Lacks was treated for the disease and her cancer cells were harvested without her knowledge or permission. It turns out these cells, nicknamed HeLa, were the first "immortal" cells: constantly reproducing from 1951 until today. And HeLa cells have been used by researchers over the last half-century to develop breakthroughs in polio, cancer, and many other diseases.

The amazing story of Henrietta Lacks is detail in the the acclaimed new book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by award-winning science writer Rebecca Skloot. (In a series of remarkable coincidences, this book about the ever-reproducing HeLa cells will be published February 2nd - Groundhog Day - and Skloot begins her tour to promote the book, which she's dubbed "The Immortal Book Tour," today, February 1st: the start of Black History Month.)

The last point is important because Skloot's book isn't just a science story but a personal story of Lacks (who died in 1951) and her family, who for more than 20 years didn't know of Henrietta's role in medical advances. (To this day, the family that has given so much to science has never been paid a dime, even though HeLa cells are sold to scientists and researchers for hefty sums.)

"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" has gained a lot of early praise from everyone from scientists and professors to book reviewers from the Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and other media to fellow nonfiction writers such as Susan Orlean.

Skloot was featured in a story on Henrietta Lacks on ABC's World News Sunday on January 31st.

More on the book:
You can find a selection of "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" reviews here.

Wired magazine created a chart detailing the remarkable contributions Henrietta Lacks has made to science.

Oprah Winfrey's "O" magazine published a 5,000-word excerpt of Skloot's book; you can read it here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"This Emotional Life" Starts Tonight on PBS

Above: A man with Asperger's syndrome talks about the challenges of living with the disorder on "This Emotional Life."

PBS takes a look inside the brain and what research is telling us about how it handles emotions when its three-part series, "This Emotional Life," premieres Monday, January 4th (at 9 p.m. on WNET, Channel 13, in New York City). In the first episode, "Social Relationships," "social connections and relationships are analyzed and the neurological processes behind our daily interactions are revealed," according to PBS. The series seems to be generating a lot of interest, because its Web site has been down much of the early evening Monday (or maybe the site is just buggy).

The second part, "Negative Emotions," airs Tuesday night, and the final part, "Positive Emotions," premieres on Wednesday.

The host of "This Emotional Life"is Dan Gilbert, a professor in the department of psychology at Harvard and author of Stumbling On Happiness. The show includes segments with celebrities discussing their own emotional struggles, such as tennis great John McEnroe on his well-known problems with anger and Chevy Chase on depression.

The Seattle Times notes that the series was conceived and co-produced by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The paper explains that "This Emotional Life" "explores the cutting-edge science that unravels some of the mysteries of human emotion, such as how infants form early attachments that determine lifelong emotional health, and how therapists use eye movement to help people reprocess disturbing memories."

But it notes that "This Emotional Life"also reflects Allen's interest in connecting the research to the stories of real people and helping them cope with the problems discusses in the episodes. So, for example, it discusses post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and reveals how military families are getting help. And when explaining Asperger's syndrome it also profiles a 29-year-old man with the disorder (video clip above).