People who donate a kidney live just as long and are just as healthy as those with two kidneys, according to a new study by University of Minnesota researchers that is the largest ever done on the long-term health consequences of donation.
The study provides a reassurance that experts hope will encourage more organ donations at a time when the need for such life-saving transplants is on the rise. Today there are 78,000 people on the kidney transplant list, and most will not survive the five- to seven-year wait for a kidney from a deceased donor.
Researchers tracked down nearly all of the 3,700 people who had donated kidneys at the university’s transplant center between 1963 and 2007.
The findings will be published today in the New England Journal of Medicine with an editorial that described the results as surprising and quite reassuring.
Snowy owls start to move south
Biologists say an increase in snowy owl sightings in the South suggests that the arctic species did so well in its northern breeding grounds last year that competition is driving the young ones to warmer climates.
The showy white owls of “Harry Potter” fame are rarely seen south of northern Ohio. This year, they’ve also been spotted farther south, in states where they’re rarely seen.
In Tennessee, birders armed with spotting scopes and telephoto lenses scrambled from as far away as Georgia and Alabama to see the first snowy owl reported in that state in 22 years.
Snowy owls nest on the ground in the Arctic tundra and many of them stay there year-round, while some winter in Canada and the northern United States. Biologists said that this year’s owl population grew so large, many of the young males moved farther south to stake out feeding territory.
Planet heats up, cools down rapidly
Astronomers have found a planet with a galactic case of hot flashes.
In just six hours, this planet four times the size of Jupiter heats up by more than 1,200 degrees, according to a study published in today’s issue of the journal Nature.
“It’s the first observation of changing weather” on a planet outside our solar system, said study author Gregory Laughlin, an astronomy professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He used NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to study the planet.
Normally, the planet HD80606b is a toasty 980 degrees or so. But in the few hours it whips around its sun, the planet gets zapped with mega-heat, pushing the thermometer closer to 2,240 degrees.
When it comes closest to its sun, it becomes one giant “brewing storm” complete with shock waves, Laughlin said. The radiation bombarding the planet is 800 times stronger than when it is farthest away.
Then just as quickly, the planet slingshots away and radiates the heat to the cool vacuum of space. It glows cherry red and the temperature plummets, Laughlin said.
Cold aids manatee count
Aided by a string of cold snaps, state scientists counted a record number of manatees in Florida waters this year. The annual aerial count, conducted two weeks ago, recorded 3,807 manatees, topping the previous high in 2001 by more than 500 animals, according to a report released Wednesday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Wildlife managers cautioned that the aerial counts don’t mean the population has suddenly boomed or the endangered mammal is no longer at risk. They amount to a snapshot, a minimum number that can vary wildly according to weather.
Study: ‘Bubble boy disease’ eased by gene therapy
Gene therapy seems to have cured eight of 10 children who had potentially fatal “bubble boy disease,” according to a study that followed their progress for about four years after treatment.
The eight patients were no longer on medication for the rare disease, which cripples the body’s defenses against infection. The successful treatment is reported in today’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Bubble boy disease is formally called severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID. The genetic disorder is diagnosed in about 40 to 100 babies each year in the United States. The nickname comes from the experience of a Houston boy, David Vetter, who became famous for living behind plastic barriers to protect him from germs. David, who died in 1984 at age 12, had the most common form of SCID. The new study involved a different form of SCID —- and one that holds a key position in medical history. In 1990 it became the first illness to be treated by gene therapy, according to the U.S. government.
Popularity in the genes?
Researchers say popularity seems to have an inherited component.
Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, along with Christopher Dawes and James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, studied 1,110 twins in a population of more than 90,000 adolescents. They measured indications of popularity such as the number of times an individual was named as a friend and whether an individual tended to be at the center or the edge of a social group.
There was more similarity between the social positions of identical twins than of fraternal twins, an indication that the measures of popularity had an inherited component, the researchers report in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
While identical and fraternal twins both have the same parents, identical twins come from the same egg while fraternal twins are fertilized separately.