Starzl Persisted in Trying “Impossible” Liver Transplants

(p. D8) In 1967, Dr. Starzl led a surgical team at the University of Colorado in a procedure that many in the medical community had dismissed as impractical, if not impossible. Although kidneys had been transplanted successfully since the 1950s, all previous attempts to replace a liver had resulted in the death of the patient.
Indeed, Dr. Starzl’s first four attempts at liver transplantation, in 1963, had failed when the patients experienced complications from the use of blood-clotting agents, which in some cases caused lethal clots to form in the lungs.
After a self-imposed moratorium that lasted three years, Dr. Starzl and his colleagues tried again. They first considered inserting a second liver, to function beneath the impaired one, as a possible route to avoiding the heavy bleeding caused by organ removal. But promising results obtained from liver surgeries on dogs could not be replicated in human patients, and that avenue was abandoned.
The team then operated on a 19-month-old girl and replaced her cancerous liver. The transplanted liver functioned without ill effects for more than a year, before the infant died of other causes. In the next year, as surgical techniques were improved, this pathbreaking success was repeated in six children and, ultimately, in adults.
Dr. Starzl later described those early liver transplants as both a “test of endurance” and “a curious exercise in brutality.” It involved, he explained, “brutality as you’re taking the liver out, then sophistication as you put it back in and hook up all of these little bile ducts and other structures.”
“Each one,” he said, “is a thread on which the whole enterprise hangs.”
. . .
With Dr. John Fung, a surgeon and immunologist, and others, Dr. Starzl evaluated FK-506, also known as tacrolimus. They published their findings in the British medical journal The Lancet in 1989.
Their investigation was not without risk; other scientists showed that tacrolimus had proved toxic when tested in dogs, and they doubted that it could be safe for humans. But the unexpected result was a medical breakthrough for patients and lavish headlines for the University of Pittsburgh, which Dr. Starzl helped fashion into an international center for training transplant specialists.
. . .
A former colleague from Pittsburgh, Dr. Byers Shaw Jr., praised Dr. Starzl’s “indomitable spirit” and said that FK-506, eventually approved in 1994 by the F.D.A., was a shining example of tenacity in a career spent “challenging the conventional thinking.”
Dr. Shaw, who is now the chairman of the department of surgery at the University of Nebraska, observed Dr. Starzl in the operating room in the 1980s, when a patient appeared to be dying during surgery. Dr. Starzl, he recalled, showed “persistence when everything else looked hopeless.”
“It affected everybody in the room,” Dr. Shaw said, “as if a fear of failure was driving all of those around him.”

For the full obituary, see:
JEREMY PEARCE. “Thomas E. Starzl, Pioneering Liver Surgeon, Dies at 90.” The New York Times (Mon., MARCH 6, 2017): D8.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date MARCH 5, 2017, and has the title “Dr. Thomas E. Starzl, Pioneering Liver Surgeon, Dies at 90.”)

Bud Shaw paints a vivid picture of Starzl in parts of:
Shaw, Bud. Last Night in the OR: A Transplant Surgeon’s Odyssey. New York: Plume, 2015.

More Than 100 Video Stores Still Open in U.S.

(p. A15) “Whoa, a video store!” said a man recently walking by Video Free Brooklyn, loud enough to be heard inside the shop.
It’s true: Video-store holdouts still exist. Their goal is to keep pushing DVDs, Blu-Rays and even VHS tapes in an age when streaming movies is second-nature.
Owners and customers of the more than 100 independent and nonprofit video stores still kicking throughout the U.S., often in places with strong locavore food scenes, say the stores offer variety film lovers can’t find elsewhere. It might be a deep roster of anime films by Hayao Miyazaki, or one of Dario Argento ‘s more obscure grindhouse efforts. They allow a browsing experience impossible online and serve as libraries for movies and TV shows that will likely never transfer to an online format.

For the full story, see:

ERIN GEIGER SMITH. “Revenge of the Video Store.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Nov. 28, 2016): A15.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 26, 2016.)

Resveratrol Slows Alzheimer’s

(p. D1) A recent human study that suggested resveratrol could slow the progression of Alzheimer’s used a daily dose equivalent to the amount in about 1,000 bottles of red wine, says Scott Turner, director of the Memory Disorders Program at Georgetown University Medical Center, who led the study. Such high doses can lead to side effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Such side effects have caused past efforts to tap the health benefits of resveratrol to founder. GlaxoSmithKline PLC shelved a project to develop a resveratrol-based pill in 2010 after some clinical-trial patients developed kidney problems. The company, which had hoped to develop the drug as a treatment for a type of blood cancer, concluded that while resveratrol didn’t directly cause those problems, its side effects led to dehydration, which could exacerbate underlying kidney issues.
Now, scientists hope to overcome that problem by increasing the potency of resveratrol at more moderate doses. Researchers at the University of New South Wales, near Sydney, suspect the substance is more effective when accompanied by other ingredients found in red wine, which somehow promote its activity. They are developing a pill that combines puri-(p. D4)fied resveratrol with other compounds in wine in an effort to mimic the drink’s naturally-occurring synergies.
. . .
At the University of New South Wales, researchers have combined resveratrol with two other components of red wine: antioxidants and chelating agents, which have separately been shown also to have health benefits.
. . .
The researchers recently tried the combination in a small trial involving 50 people and found it increased the activity of a substance called NAD+ that plays a key role in maintaining healthy cells.

For the full story, see:
DENISE ROLAND. “Scientists Try to Put Red Wine in a Pill.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Aug. 2, 2016): D1 & D4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 1, 2016, and has the title “Scientists Get Closer to Harnessing the Health Benefits of Red Wine.”)

A recent article co-authored by Turner, related to the research summarized above, is:
Moussa, Charbel, Michaeline Hebron, Huang Xu, Jaeil Ahn, Robert A. Rissman, Paul S. Aisen, R. Scott Turner, Xu Huang, and R. Scott Turner. “Resveratrol Regulates Neuro-Inflammation and Induces Adaptive Immunity in Alzheimer’s Disease.” Journal of Neuroinflammation 14 (Jan. 3, 2017): 1-10.

Nano-Enhanced Fabrics Can Clean Themselves

(p. D3) Scientists in Australia, one of the sunniest places on the planet, have discovered a way to rid clothes of stubborn stains by exposing them to sunlight, potentially replacing doing the laundry.
Working in a laboratory, the researchers embedded minute flecks of silver and copper–invisible to the naked eye–within cotton fabric. When exposed to light, the tiny metal particles, or nanostructures, released bursts of energy that degraded any organic matter on the fabric in as little as six minutes, said Rajesh Ramanathan, a postdoctoral fellow at RMIT University, in Melbourne.
The development, reported recently in the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces, represents an early stage of research into nano-enhanced fabrics that have the ability to clean themselves, Dr. Ramanathan said. The tiny metal particles don’t change the look or feel of the fabric. They also stay on the surface of the garment even when it is rinsed in water, meaning they can be used over and over on new grime, he said.

For the full story, see:
RACHEL PANNETT. “An End to Laundry? The Promise of Self-Cleaning Fabric.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., April 26, 2016): D3.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 25, 2016.)

The academic article describing the self-cleaning fabric, is:
Anderson, Samuel R., Mahsa Mohammadtaheri, Dipesh Kumar, Anthony P. O’Mullane, Matthew R. Field, Rajesh Ramanathan, and Vipul Bansal. “Robust Nanostructured Silver and Copper Fabrics with Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance Property for Effective Visible Light Induced Reductive Catalysis.” Advanced Materials Interfaces 3, no. 6 (2016): 1-8.

“The Powers of a Man’s Mind Are Directly Proportioned to the Quantity of Coffee He Drinks”

(p. C9) . . . certain aspects of 18th-century Parisian life diluted the importance of sight. This was, after all, a time before widespread street lighting, and, as such, activities in markets (notably Les Halles) were guided as much by sound and touch as by eyes that struggled in the near dark conditions. Natural light governed the lives of working people, principally because candles were expensive. Night workers–such as baker boys known as “bats,” who worked in cheerless basements–learned to rely on their other senses, most notably touch.
. . .
“For Enlightenment consumers, a delicious food or beverage had more than just the power of giving a person pleasure,” writes Ms. Purnell; taste, it was held, could influence personality, emotions and intelligence. Take coffee, “the triumphant beverage of the Age of Enlightenm ent.” Considered a “sober liquor,” it stimulated creativity without courting the prospect of drunkenness. Sir James Mackintosh, the Scottish philosopher, believed that “the powers of a man’s mind are directly proportioned to the quantity of coffee he drinks.” Voltaire agreed and supposedly quaffed 40 cups of it every day. Taste was also gendered: Coffee was deemed too strong for women; drinking chocolate was thought more suitable.

For the full review, see:
MARK SMITH. “The Stench of Progress.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., MARCH 11, 2017): C9.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 10, 2017.)

The book under review, is:
Purnell, Carolyn. The Sensational Past: How the Enlightenment Changed the Way We Use Our Senses. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2017.

Workers in Open Offices Are Less Able to Focus and Take More Sick Days

(p. R7) Noisy, open-floor plans have become a staple of office life. But after years of employee complaints, companies are trying to quiet the backlash.
Many studies show how open-plan office spaces can have negative effects on employees and productivity. As a result, companies are adding soundproof rooms, creating quiet zones and rearranging floor plans to appeal to employees eager to escape disruptions at their desk.
Companies are “not providing sufficient variety in spaces,” says David Lehrer, a researcher at the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California, Berkeley. Mr. Lehrer studies the impact of office designs on employees, and lack of “speech privacy” is currently a significant problem, he says. Employees in open-plan offices are less likely to be satisfied with their offices than employees in a traditional office layout, Mr. Lehrer adds.
. . .
Companies with open offices, . . . , soon encountered the downsides. For one thing, workers took increased sick days–a 2014 Swedish study of more than 1,800 workers found open-plan workers were twice as likely to take sick days as workers in traditional offices. The reason, the researchers hypothesized: the spread of germs and increased environmental stress of working in an open space. Workers also complained of an inability to focus and were generally less content with their work environment, the study said.
Now, companies are again “realizing people actually have to be productive,” says Ned Fennie, partner at San Francisco-based architecture firm Fennie + Mehl.

For the full story, see:
ALINA DIZIK. “Open Offices Lose Some of Their Openness; Companies look for ways to add privacy and quiet areas without reverting to the traditional design.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Oct. 3, 2016): R7.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 2, 2016, and has the title “Open Offices Are Losing Some of Their Openness; Companies look for ways to add privacy and quiet areas without reverting to the traditional office design.”)

The 2014 Swedish study mentioned above, is:
Bodin Danielsson, Christina, Holendro Singh Chungkham, Cornelia Wulff, and Hugo Westerlund. “Office Design’s Impact on Sick Leave Rates.” Ergonomics 57, no. 2 (Feb. 2014): 139-47.

“Slow Is Smooth and Smooth Is Fast”

(p. B2) WASHINGTON — Jeff Bezos, the billionaire chief executive of Amazon, founded a rocket company as a hobby 16 years ago. Now that company, Blue Origin, finally has its first paying customer as it ramps up to become a full-fledged business.
Mr. Bezos announced that customer, the satellite television provider Eutelsat, on Tuesday. In about five years, Eutelsat, which is based in Paris, will strap one of its satellites to a new Blue Origin rocket to be delivered to space, a process it has done dozens of times with other space partners.
. . .
Blue Origin’s deal with Eutelsat is a “definite statement to the industry that Blue Origin will be a viable commercial launch vehicle,” said Carissa Bryce Christensen, the chief executive of Bryce Space and Technology, a consulting firm.
. . .
Mr. Bezos “is investing because he wants to transform people’s lives with space capabilities, but the expectation has always been that this will be a successful business,” Ms. Christensen said.
. . .
Mr. Bezos said he was approaching his space project with an abundance of patience.
“I like to do things incrementally,” he said, noting that Blue Origin’s mascot is a tortoise. With such high costs and risks with each rocket launch, it is important not to skip steps, he said.
“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast,” said Mr. Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post and a clock that will keep time for 10,000 years. “I’ve seen this in every endeavor I’ve been in.”

For the full story, see:
CECILIA KANG. “Blue Origin, Bezos’s Moon Shot, Gets First Paying Customer.” The New York Times (Weds., March 8, 2017): B2.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 7, 2017, and has the title “Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’s Moon Shot, Gets First Paying Customer.”)