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Medical magic: Scientists try to regrow fingers

Researchers are trying to find ways to regrow fingers and someday, even limbs with tricks that sound like magic spells from a Harry Potter novel.

There is the guy who sliced off a fingertip but grew it back, after he treated the wound with an extract of pig bladder. And the scientists who grow extra arms on salamanders. And the laboratory mice with the eerie ability to heal themselves.

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This summer, scientists are planning to see whether the powdered pig extract can help injured soldiers regrow parts of their fingers. And a large federally funded project is trying to unlock the secrets of how some ani-mals regrow body parts so well, with hopes of applying the lessons to humans.

The implications for regrowing fingers go beyond the cosmetic. People who are missing all or most of their fingers, as from an explosion or a fire, often can’t pick things up, brush their teeth or button a button. If they could grow even a small stub, it could make a huge difference in their lives.

And the lessons learnt from studying regrowth of fingers and limbs could aid the larger field of regenerative medicine, perhaps someday helping people replace damaged parts of their hearts and spinal cords, and heal wounds and burns with new skin instead of scar tissue.

But that’s in the future. For now, consider the situation of Lee Spievack, a hobby-store salesman in Cincinnati, as he regarded his severed right middle finger one evening in August 2005.

He had been helping a customer with an engine on a model airplane behind the shop when the propellor sliced off the tip of his finger. The missing piece, about one centimetre long, was never found.

An emergency room doctor wrapped up the rest of his finger and sent him to a hand surgeon, who recommended a skin graft. What was gone, it appeared, was gone forever.

Spievack did have a major advantage a brother, Alan, a former Harvard surgeon who’d founded a company called ACell Inc, that makes an extract of pig bladder for promoting healing and tissue regeneration.

It helps horses regrow ligaments, for example, and the federal government has given clearance to market it for use in people. Similar formulations have been used in many people to do things like treat ulcers and other wounds and help make cartilage.

Lee Spievack took his brother’s advice to forget about a skin graft and try the pig powder. Soon a shipment of the stuff arrived and Lee Spievack started applying it every two days. Within four weeks his finger had regained its original length, he says, and in four months “it looked like my normal finger.”

Source:The Times Of India

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‘Sexsomniacs’ puzzle medical researchers

Researchers are struggling to understand a rare medical condition where sufferers unknowingly demand, or actually have, sex while asleep, New Scientist magazine reported on Wednesday.

Research into sexsomnia   making sexual advances toward another person while asleep   has been hampered as sufferers are so embarrassed by the problem they tend not to own up to it, while doctors do not ask about it.

As yet there is no cure for the condition, which often leads to difficulties in relationships.

“It really bothers me that I can’t control it,” Lisa Mahoney told the magazine. “It scares me because I don’t think it has anything to do with the partner. I don’t want this foolish condition to hurt us in the long run.”

Most researchers view sexsomnia as a variant of sleepwalking, where sufferers are stuck between sleep and wakefulness, though sexsomniacs tend to stay in bed rather than get up and walk about.

While sleepwalking affects two to four percent of adults, sexsomnia is not thought to be as common a problem, according to Nik Trajanovic, a researcher at the sleep and alertness clinic at Canada‘s Toronto Western Hospital.

But an Internet survey of sexsomniacs carried out in 2005 that drew 219 reliable respondents concluded it was more prevalent than medical case reports alone might suggest.

“Most of the time sleep sex occurs between people who are already partners,” Mark Pressman, a sleep specialist at Lankenan Hospital in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, told the New Scientist.

“Sometimes they hate it,” added Pressman of the reactions of sexsomniacs’ partners. “Sometimes they tolerate it. On rare occasions you have stories of people liking it better than waking sex.”

With no cure, addressing triggering factors — stress or sleep deprivation — can help, while Michael Mangan, a psychologist at the University of New Hampshire in the US has set up a Web site, www.sleepsex.org, to help sufferers.

(As published in The Times Of India)