Womb Transplants Given Go-ahead in the UK

Pregnant woman

Doctors have been granted approval to carry out the UK’s first 10 womb transplants, following the success of the procedure in Sweden.

The go-ahead has been given by the Health Research Authority – as part of a clinical trial – which launches in the spring.

Around one in 7,000 women are born without a womb, while others lose their womb to cancer.

If the trial is successful, the first UK baby could arrive in early 2018.

Read on here.


Ebola Patient Dr Kent Brantly Arrives in the USA

NBC News:

A person in a hooded white protective suit with was helped out of an ambulance by a person in heavier protective gear on Saturday at the Atlanta hospital where an American doctor who contracted Ebola while working with a charity organization in Liberia arrived for treatment Saturday afternoon. Dr. Kent Brantly — the first person infected with Ebola on U.S. soil — landed at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Georgia, in a plane specially outfitted with containment equipment. Dobbins Air Reserve base Spokesman Lt. Col James Wilson said the arrival and transfer was “uneventful.”

He was immediately transported by ambulance to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, according to the Christian charity organization Samaritan’s Purse. Emory has prepared a special isolation unit with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and said they are equipped to care for Brantly. Nancy Writebol, a second American infected with the deadly disease will be evacuated from Liberia and placed in the same “hospital isolation unit” with Brantly, Dr. Jay Varkey, an infectious disease specialist at Emory, told NBC News. Writebol remains in serious but stable condition, according to SIM, the Christian mission organization that she works with.

“The patients will be escorted throughout by specially and frequently trained teams that have sufficient resources to transport the patients so that there is no break in their medical care or exposure to others,” the U.S. Defense Department said in a statement. Ebola has infected more than 1,300 people and killed 729 of them in the current West African outbreak, according to the CDC.


‘God Will Deliver Me From This,’ Doctor Infected With Ebola Says

Please pray for Dr Kent Brantly as he battles this deadly virus.

Kent Brantly

Dr. Kent Brantly is fighting for his life after being infected with the Ebola virus while working with Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia. The doctor is listed in grave condition but remains hopeful that God will deliver him from the disease’s grip.

“God’s going to deliver me from this but even if he doesn’t, I have lived my life for him and I have no regrets,” Brantly told Kent Smith, an elder at the South Central Alliance Churches in Fort Worth, Texas.

“It’s a very stressful time,” Brantly’s mother, Jan, told Daily Mail. “Kent is a fine young man, very compassionate, doing what he’s prepared all his life to do. He’s placed his life in the hands of a loving God and our love in that God that sustains us. We pray constantly for him and we solicit the prayer of the whole world. He’s a brave man. He’s doing what he’s doing to serve his God and we are asking people to pray.”

Brantly and wife Amber were working as medical missionaries in Liberia; she recently returned to the states with their two children for a planned visit with family. He has remained in Liberia, where he is receiving medical treatment.

“I’m praying fervently that God will help me survive this disease,” Brantly said in an email to Dr. David Mcray, the director of maternal-child health at John Peter Smith Hospital, where Brantly completed a four-year residency. He also asked for prayers for Nancy Writebol, an American co-worker who has also been affected by the disease.

“Kent prepared himself to be a lifetime medical missionary,” Jan told the Associated Press. “His heart is in Africa.”

An investigation is currently being held in order to determine how Brantly contacted the disease, which is spread through direct contact with blood and other bodily fluids as well as indirect contact with “environments contaminated with such fluids,” according to the World Health Organization.



South African X-ray Machine Steals Show in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

It showed on the telly last night.

The Lodox produces the lowest levels of radiation of any other X-ray machine, and is used in 11 hospital trauma units across the country, mostly at government hospitals.

While other machines might take 20 minutes to X-ray a critically injured patient, the Lodox takes only seconds.

The machine was invented by the De Beers mining company in the 1990s to scan hundreds of miners at the ends of their shifts to see if they had swallowed diamonds.

In last night’s episode, Dr Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) presents the machine to his staff…

Rest here.



Belief in God Improves the Outcome in Treatment for Psychiatric Illness

According to a Harvard study:

Belief in God significantly improves the outcome of those receiving short-term treatment for psychiatric illness, a recent study conducted by the Harvard Medical School researchers has concluded.

In the study, published in the current issue of Journal of Affective Disorders, Dr. David Rosmarin, a clinician at McLean Hospital and instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, examined individuals at the hospital’s Behavioral Health Partial Hospital programme to investigate the relationship between patients’ level of belief in God, expectations for treatment and actual treatment outcomes.

“Our work suggests that people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without, regardless of their religious affiliation. Belief was associated with not only improved psychological wellbeing, but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm,” Dr. Rosmarin reported.

The study looked at 159 patients, recruited over a one-year period. Each participant was asked to gauge their belief in God as well as their expectations for treatment outcome and emotion regulation, each on a five-point scale. Levels of depression, wellbeing, and self-harm were assessed at the beginning and end of their treatment program.

Of the patients sampled, more than 30 per cent claimed no specific religious affiliation yet still saw the same benefits in treatment if their belief in a higher power was rated as moderately or very high. Patients with “no” or only “slight” belief in God were twice as likely not to respond to treatment than patients with higher levels of belief.

The study concludes: “… belief in God is associated with improved treatment outcomes in psychiatric care. More centrally, our results suggest that belief in the credibility of psychiatric treatment and increased expectations to gain from treatment might be mechanisms by which belief in God can impact treatment outcomes.”

Dr. Rosmarin commented, “Given the prevalence of religious belief in the United States — over 90 per cent of the population — these findings are important in that they highlight the clinical implications of spiritual life.”


Bible Archaeology

What Killed Herod the Great?

In the Montreal Gazette:

Jerusalem — If hockey is Canada’s national sport, archeology is Israel’s.  Wherever one walks, one treads on history; wherever one drives, one travels  through history. Whenever one talks — well, consider for example a recent phone  call I made to my daughter arranging to pick her up: “I’ll take the Valley of  the Cross (the reference is obvious), go up Gaza St. (the ancient route from  Jerusalem to the coast) and meet you just outside the Western Wall (the only  remainder of Jerusalem’s Holy Temple).” If I go hiking near our house, which  directly faces the Judean Hills (where John the Baptist hid out in his day),  each of my footsteps crunches on pottery shards strewn about rocky terraces  built more than 2,000 years ago by the Children of Israel (my forefathers).

When I learned a few years ago that the famous archeologist Ehud Netzer was  leading a tour of Herodium, the site where he had located the grave of Herod the  Great, I jumped at the chance. The outing was sponsored by a jewel of an  institution, the Bible Lands Museum (sponsored in large part by Canadian  philanthropy and itself worth a visit, either in person or via its website,

Herod the Great — as opposed to other Herods less grand — was a sort of  Jewish king who ruled Palestine under the umbrella of the Roman Empire from 37  BCE until his gruesome death (more on that later) in 4 CE. Among other things,  he was known for grandiose and extensive building; he made his kingdom a place  of wonder for, and even tourism from, the reaches of the Roman Empire. In  addition to Herodium, Herod erected magnificent buildings in Caesarea and  Masada, among others, and was responsible for renovating and refurbishing the  great temple in Jerusalem.

Herodium, a few kilometres southwest of Jerusalem, was one of the king’s  grandest building projects, serving as summer palace, monument and district  administrative capital. As our guide explained, “Think of Herodium’s  relationship to Jerusalem as Versailles’s to Paris.” As evidence of how  important it was to Herod, this complex was the only one of his many impressive  sites that he named after himself.

Above all, this was Herod’s self-chosen place of burial. Why there? As Prof.  Netzer recounted, at one point Herod, his family and his armed retainers had to  escape Jerusalem during a brief siege of the city by the Parthians, the Roman  enemy of the month. During this tactical retreat, Herod’s mother was almost  killed when her carriage crashed. But she survived, and Herod vowed he would  make the spot his place of burial. And so he did.

For the past 100 years, archeologists have worked at Herodium, but no one had  located Herod’s grave until just a few years ago, when Netzer, a trained  architect, experienced archeologist and professor at the Hebrew University of  Jerusalem, announced that he had discovered the mausoleum halfway up the slope  of the cone-shaped site. Why are most archeologists so certain that this was  indeed the site of the tomb and that Herod was actually buried there? Well, one  can read all about it from the pen of Flavius Josephus, a contemporary  historian.

The grand mausoleum is still being excavated and is not yet open to the  public — unless you happen to be accompanied by the archeologist who discovered  it. (Sadly, in 2010, a few months after our tour, Netzer died as a result of a  fall suffered at his beloved site.) As I took in the place, I couldn’t help but  wonder what illness Herod died from. In the case of most ancient personages, we  haven’t got a clue. But here, once again, Josephus steps into the breach.  Quoting more contemporary sources (Herod had died several decades before  Josephus wrote his own account), he describes the king’s symptoms:

“He had a fever, though not a raging fever, an intolerable itching of the  whole skin, continuous pains in the intestines, tumours of the feet as in  dropsy, inflammation of the abdomen and gangrene of the privy parts.” He also  suffered, according to Josephus, from “limb convulsions, asthma and foul  breath.”

The doctors of the day were, not surprisingly, flummoxed by this combination  of symptoms. They used the contemporary therapeutic armamentarium, including  immersing the patient in a bath of hot oil. But Herod received no relief, and  the bath burned his eyes.

The clinically curious of today can turn to the more modern Historical  Clinicopathological Conference put on by the University of Maryland, which  brings experts together periodically to examine the death of a famous personage,  and which recently tackled Herod’s case. The combination of symptoms was a  challenging one, especially the presence of gangrene of the genitalia — something one does not see every day. The scientists used a clever bit of  clinical reasoning and came to a tentative conclusion: chronic kidney failure of  unknown cause complicated by the rare (thank God) Fournier’s gangrene of the  testicles. There are other candidates, of course, such as syphilis or other  sexually transmitted diseases, but the kidney diagnosis seemed to fit the  symptoms best.

Unfortunately for us and for medical history, Prof. Netzer found no human  remains in the mausoleum, probably because it had been ransacked by Jewish  rebels during the revolt against the Romans about 70 years after Herod died. So  we’ll never know the true cause of his death — but the speculation is  fascinating.