My 5 Top Health Stories for 2009

An interview on CTV’s Canada AM on December 29, 2009.

Here are the stories.

1)      Obseity surgery can reverse type 2 diabetes for some

One of the wonders of science is how an action based on initial assumptions, hypotheses and theories can lead, at times, to unexpected and indeed beneficial consequences. When these consequences have the potential to affect the lives of millions of people, the research obviously takes on added significance.

The treatment of obesity via bariatric or gastric bypass surgery does help many to lose significant weight. Many of these people have type 2 diabetes. They have been either using insulin or a combination of oral medications to control the disease. However, the earlier the disease is diagnosed in a person’s life, the more likely they will suffer the myriad of cardiovascular and kidney complications among others. They believe that diabetes is a chronic, progressive incurable disease.

According to surgeon Dr. Richard Stubbs, this belief is wrong. He hypothesizes that type 2 diabetes is a disease of the gut and has evidence to substantiate the claim. Moreover, in diabetic patients who undergo gastric bypass, their type 2 diabetes disappears, in 6 days and never returns

  • Dr. Richard Stubbs, Upper GI Surgeon and Professor, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Director of the Wakefield Biomedical Research Unit at the University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand

2)     Nanosuturing using light to stitch a wound

I am reminded of a scene from the science fiction movie Logan’s Run where a plastic surgeon uses a laser to cut the skin, makes the cosmetic change, and then seals the wound with a laser leaving no scar. Although this seemed an impossible feat of technology at the time, real science has edged closer to it.

Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital are using light to “stitch” surface wound openings back together. The process is called nanosuturing or photochemical tissue bonding.

  • Dr. Irene Kochevar, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry and Dermatology at the Harvard Medical School Wellman Center for Photomedicine and Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

3)     Protein responsible for brain cell death after stroke

There are many branches of stroke research from prevention, emergency treatment, to rehabilitation technologies and therapies. When a person suffers a stroke, it is a race to try to minimize the death of brain cells that follow the initial damage and oxygen deprivation.

Scientists at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre, located at Toronto Western Hospital part of University Health Network, have learned in laboratory-based experiments, how to prevent the death of brain cells which would normally die within a few days after the brain is deprived of oxygen (stroke).

The findings were published in the September 8, 2009 online edition in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

  • Dr. Mike Tymianski, MD PhD FRCSC, Medical Director of the Neurovascular Therapeutics Program at the University Health Network.  Professor in the  Departments of Surgery and Physiology at University of Toronto and Senior Scientist at Toronto Western Hospital Research Institute

4)     Bacteriophages kill resistant bacterial infections

Pathogenic or disease-causing bacteria want to survive. To that end, they have complex mechanisms that will allow them, over time, to adapt and resist antibiotic treatments. The pace of new antibiotics being introduced into the market is slowing and other approaches are needed to help fighting difficult to treat infections.

A study by researchers at University College London Ear Institute to be published in the journal Clinical Otolaryngology uses a virus that destroys bacteria. These viruses are called bacteriophages.

  • Dr. Anthony (Tony) Wright, Emeritus Professor of Otolaryngology, UCL Ear Institute

5)    The Zamboni theory on MS and the Liberation Treatment

CTV’s W5 and medical specialist Avis Favaro reported on this finding earlier this year.. This theory contends that multiple sclerosis patients suffer from blockages in the veins in their necks or the azygous vein down their spine that cause blood to reflux back into the brain and leave the deposits of iron that mark MS.

Zamboni has also found that angioplasty to open these clogged veins can lead to remissions in MS symptoms in some patients.

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