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Growing Hearts in a Lab; Are You Ready For Cloned Meat and Milk?; How to Protect Yourself in the Emergency Room

Aired January 19, 2008 - 08:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: This is HOUSE CALL. We're making the rounds this morning with some of the most intriguing medical stories of the week.
First up, growing hearts in a lab. What could it mean for heart disease, America's number one killer?

Plus, are you ready for cloned meat or milk on your menu?

And how to protect yourself when you have to rush to the emergency room.

We start this morning, though, with a big scientific breakthrough. It's exciting doctors all over the world. The findings may one day bring hope to the thousands of people in need of organ transplants. What scientists did in a Minnesota laboratory may literally get your heart pumping.


GUPTA (voice-over): It may sound likes science fiction. University of Minnesota researchers actually created this beating rat's heart using a process they call decellularization. A soap solution cleaned out most of the cells in the heart, leaving only the outermost structure. Then cells from another rat were injected. And within a few days, new heart tissues started growing.

DORIS TAYLOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: We said nature has the tools. Nature knows how to build a heart. We're never going to figure it out.

GUPTA: Unlike stem cell research, which seeks to build a completely new organ, decellularization rebuilds an already existing organ. Doris Taylor headed the investigation and hopes this breakthrough may eventually bring relief to the 5 million Americans who suffer heart failure and the thousands in need of heart transplants every year.

TAYLOR: Aging and heart disease and most chronic disease is something that we can begin to prevent or reverse with cells. Maybe we can build more than just a heart.

GUPTA: The results of that rat study are extremely new. They've only done this successfully with eight hearts. So far, no rat is living with such a recreated heart. And it remains to be seen if a regenerated heart can be transplanted into humans. Some like bioengineer Bob Nerem are doubtful.

BOB NEREM, GEORGIA TECH BIOENGINEER: In the case of a heart, I think that's probably not going to be the case, but could be used, for example, to develop what we would call a cardiac patch. It could be used in developing models for drug development, drug testing. I do view it as a major step.

GUPTA: A major step that Minnesota researchers hope will have a huge impact on the future of bioscience.

TAYLOR: It's remarkable. It was our greatest hope. And it's actually in some ways beyond our wildest dream.


GUPTA: And Dr. Taylor's team has also begun experimenting on pigs. Now something you may not know, a pig's heart is closer in size to a human's. And as you know, some pig parts, such as heart valves and other tissue are already being used in people.

We'll, of course, keep you informed on this research. Right now, there are things you can do to keep your heart healthy. Eat foods low in saturated fats. You already know that. Avoid transfats as well to avoid clogging arteries. Don't eat a lot of salt. Keep your blood pressure in check. Maintain a healthy weight, so you don't put too much strain on your heart. And of course, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to give your body the nutrients it needs.

Now, what if I told you one day you might be eating a carbon copy of that steak that you already ate last week? Well, the United States Food and Drug Administration released a long anticipated report, saying that milk and meat from most healthy cloned animals and their offspring are safe to eat. And the FDA won't require labeling of cloned foods as well. Interesting stuff.

And Judy Fortin, you've been investigating the story. What do people think about all this?

JUDY FORTIN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, there's so many different answers to this, Sanjay. Will people actually eat that food? The FDA, when it was conducting its research on this topic, actually did a focus group. And people weren't really sure what the cloned food was all about.

Now I did my own informal survey at a local supermarket. And people had very differing opinions on the matter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not comfortable with it. Whether they claim it to be safe or not, I'm just not comfortable with the idea of it.

FORTIN: Why do you think cloned food is safe?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are exact replications of the adults. There's no difference.

FORTIN: And you would buy cloned food products for your family?


FORTIN: No worries?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until I know more about it, I - you know, is it a better product? Is it safer? You know, I guess those are the questions I'd want to know the answers to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope that if they do clone them, let me know which animal is cloned and I won't eat them.


FORTIN: You know, Sanjay, I think a lot of people feel that way, but they may have some time to think about it.

GUPTA: You know, he really did not seem excited about this at all.

FORTIN: No, he was not. And he's not the only one, but it could be three to five years before people actually have to worry about this. Because the animals that are actually cloned are way too expensive to put into the food production. Some say up to $25,000 a piece to create. But it's their offspring that we may one day see at our dinner table. So people have a lot to think about as they decide whether or not they'd want to eat this type of meat or drink this type of milk that we may have in our cups.

GUPTA: Or pay all that money. I mean, it sounds like it could be very expensive.

FORTIN: It could be very expensive. We'll have to see how much.

GUPTA: OK, very interesting report. Thank you very much, Judy.

And you should know, as well, that some countries outside the United States are already concerned about genetically manipulated food. They're actually raising red flags about allowing these cloned imports.

Other critics, however, have moral, ethical, even religious concerns about cloning. We'll keep you posted on this important story as it develops.

Now we think you're going to love the amazing and inspirational weight loss success story that we have coming up. Plus, a blockbuster study affecting millions of Americans. That's next in our quick medical headlines of the week. We're back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GUPTA: Some quick medical hits now. First up, a potential breakthrough in prostate cancer. A DNA test is on the horizon, costing around $300. It can warn men at an early age if they should be checked more often. Tests should be available in about two months.

Also, new research raises questions about the effectiveness of the cholesterol lowering drug Vytorin. Scientists found Vytorin, which is a combination of Zetia and Zocor, did lower bad cholesterol levels. But get this. It did no better a job than Zocor by itself in reducing fatty deposit plaques in arteries. It's those plaques that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Larger studies of Vytorin are currently underway. An important point -- consult your health care professional if you have any concerns. Don't simply stop the medication.

And the FDA is making it official. You should not give over the counter cough or cold medicines to babies or children under two years old. Now it's been known for several months that small children get no benefit from the drug and risk serious and potentially life threatening side effects. You're watching HOUSE CALL on CNN. We'll be back in 60 seconds.


GUPTA: Every year, more than 11,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer. 4,000 will die. On, we asked you, which topic would you like us to tackle on HOUSE CALL? You voted for cervical cancer.

We turn now to Judy Fortin with more on battling this disease.


FORTIN (voice-over): Millions of women head to the OB/GYN each year for their annual pap test, but Allison Hicks' doctor had some bad news for her.

ALLISON HICKS, PATIENT: I can tell you this is cancer. I can see tumors all over your cervix.

FORTIN: Allison's cancer was one that affects more than 11,000 American women every year. It was so advanced, her doctor had to perform a radical hysterectomy, a surgery removing her reproductive organs.

HICKS: I was thinking I'm 29-years-old and I've had a hysterectomy. And who is there talk to? I'm going through menopause. I'm having hot flashes. I have to take estrogen therapy. I'm in mourning of losing the ability to be a birth mother, which has been a dream my whole life.

FORTIN: Cervical cancer is often caused by the sexually transmitted Human Pappiloma Virus or HPV. HPV can cause normal cells in the lining of the cervix to gradually develop changes that eventually lead to cervical cancer, a diagnosis that impacts women differently as they age.

SUJTHA REDDY, DR., EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: For younger women, fertility may be an issue. If they haven't had children, trying to preserve that ability is going to be very important to them. And they may choose more conservative options.

FORTIN: Women in their 30s and young women in early stages of cancer may opt for more conservative treatment, such as radiation or less invasive surgery. For women moving beyond their reproductive years, doctors say the decision may be more clear.

REDDY: I think for women that are older, hysterectomy becomes an easier decision. It may be easier to make that decision if you're done having your children and you're already in menopause.

FORTIN: According to the American Cancer Society, half of all new cervical cancer cases each year occur in women between ages 35 and 55. So getting checked early is critical.

REDDY: Prevention at every age is going to be early detection and finding the precancerous changes. And the best way to do that's going to be with a pap smear.

FORTIN: A lesson Allison now gladly shares with other women, through her foundation,

HICKS: Surviving starts with knowing. The only way to beat this cancer is to know about it and not get it.

FORTIN: Judy Fortin, CNN, reporting.


GUPTA: All right, thanks, Judy. Keep in mind cervical cancer can be prevented by taking some simple steps. First of all, educate yourself. HPV, a sexually transmitted virus, causes most cervical cancers. So use protection. Early detection, of course, is critical. A pap smear can detect 90 percent of most cervical cancers.

And then there's the vaccine. Girls and women, ages 11 to 26, should consider the Gardisil vaccine to avoid contracting HPV. Gardisil is most effectively before a woman is sexually active and can prevent up to 70 percent of cervical cancers.

I traveled around the country this week hearing what you have to say about health care. After the break, hear what the candidates are saying about your health.


GUPTA: This week, I've been traveling to Michigan and South Carolina, states that are critical to presidential politics. Before I left, I posted a blog, wanting to know what the voters cared about.

Here's a response that caught my attention, reads "As someone who has recently been accepted to medical school and is having second thoughts due to the uncertain state of the health care system, I would love to know more about the different health care plans."

Second thoughts, interesting question. Here's a breakdown.


GUPTA (voice-over): Democratic candidates have done most of the stumping on health care and released the most detailed plans to change our $2.2 trillion health care system. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama are all calling for universal coverage. But Obama's proposal would not require it.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that the problem with the American people is that they are not being forced to get health care. The problem is they can't afford it.

GUPTA: Obama's plan would cost an estimated $50 to $65 billion. Clinton and Edwards' plan would cost roughly $100 billion. All three say they can pay for them, by eliminating the Bush tax cut on the wealthiest Americans and eliminating waste.

Now none of these plans call for government run health care like France. Only Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich has proposed that. As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney signed into a law a universal health care bill for residents of the Commonwealth. As presidential candidate, Romney is calling instead for state deregulation, federal tax incentives, and other changes in the current system to get more people insure insured. An estimated 47 million Americans, including 9 million children, do not have health insurance.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not good for them. It's not good for you. It's not good for them, of course, because if they get sick, they don't have a primary care physician to care for them. They have to go to the hospital to get care. It's not good for you because guess who's paying for it if they don't have insurance?

GUPTA: Republicans John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Huckabee also support industry competition. They say they can bring down costs and allow more people to afford health insurance. And Huckabee, who lost 110 pounds by dieting and exercise, is preaching prevention.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The key fact is to recognize that 80 percent of our health care expenditures are going to chronic disease. So what we have to do is start moving toward a prevention system, rather than an intervention system. Because we really don't have a health care system. What we've got is a disease care system.


GUPTA: And a reminder, catch my special, a look at the health care system called "Broken Government, Critical Condition." . It airs Thursday, January 31st at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, right after the debate.

Now Glenn Beck's allegedly horrific experience in the ER might make you wonder if this is how they treat a television personality, how might they treat me? Well, in this week's "empowered patient", CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has some tips on how to get the best care out of the ER. What happened to him?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What Glenn Beck said happened to him is really quite chilling, Sanjay, if you watch the video that he made. Beck says that he went to the emergency room in horrible pain, doubled over. His wife who is half his size, he says was holding him up.

And then for 40 minutes, nobody helped her, nobody helped him. And he says it took two hours to get any kind of pain medication. And he said he was in massive, massive pain, and then had to stay in the hospital for several days.

GUPTA: Is this a common thing? And if so, I mean, what can someone do about it?

COHEN: Well, you know, I called emergency room physicians and nurses. And I said, hey, did you hear what happened to Glenn Beck? Do you think that this is a red herring? Or do you think this happened? So I was surprised they said, oh, yes, this happens. I didn't think they would say that.

But they said, yes, this does happen. I'm sure that this has probably happened in my emergency room. Most of the time, people get fabulous care. But they said wait times are long. One doctor said when I was in training five years ago, we'd have 20 people in the waiting room. Now same hospital, we have 40 people in the waiting room. They said the wait times are just long these days.

GUPTA: So the average person watching right now, who might have to go to the ER, what can they do?

COHEN: Right. There are specific things you can do to try to avoid having what happened to Beck happen to you. So let's go over a couple of ways that you can be an empowered patient in the emergency room.

The first tip that an emergency room doctor himself gave me is call your doctor on the way into the ER and ask them to call the ER. He says if an ER doctor gets a call from another physician, they're going to pay attention. And it's going to be make a difference when you get to the emergency room.

And the second tip is do not take an ambulance unless you really need it. There's apparently a myth out there that says if you take an ambulance, you'll get -- you'll be the first person served when you get there. You'll go right to the doctor. Not true apparently.

And thirdly, if you're getting really bad service, and no one is helping you, look around for a house phone or a courtesy phone. Dial 0. Ask the hospital administration on call and say I'm sitting in your waiting room. No one's helping me. And hospital administrators really don't like to hear that. So you might get some action there.

GUPTA: Yes. And we should add as well, he's doing well now, right?

COHEN: Yes, he's doing well now. That's right.

GUPTA: He's back on here. We've seen him here. Thanks, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thank you.

GUPTA: Really good stuff for sure.

And make sure to check out Elizabeth's column as well on this very topic at Look for her picture, it's a nice one. Click on the link there. Every week, she writes about ways that you can empower yourself to get the most out of your health care.

Now we have some food that you thought you couldn't eat on a weight management plan that also might help you feel satisfied. They may even help you manage your waist line as well. We'll break it down for you next. Stay with us.


GUPTA: Every year, millions of Americans make New Year's resolutions. A lot of them involve health and exercise. We're going to help you reach your goals this year by helping you make some better food choices. Here are this week's top tips.


PAGE LOVE, REGISTERED DIETITIAN: There's a number of foods that are really very good for us, have a lot of good nutrients, and may even help us become leaner if we allow them in our diet.

For example, red meat. Bad rap because people assume it's higher in fat, but if you're choosing lean red meat like loin cuts, sirloin, tenderloin or round cuts, these are very lean meats that contain great sources of iron and zinc, and are very great sources of protein. So this can actually help you meet your protein needs, get your iron needs met, and help you stay leaner by giving your body the building blocks of high quality protein that go right into building muscle.

Another food that's commonly confused is ice cream. And we all think, oh, ice cream is loaded with fat and sugar and we shouldn't be eating it. Ice cream's still a wonderful dairy choice. It helps us meet our three dairies of the day. And particularly for women, we know that consuming three dairies a day can actually help with weight management. The protein in the ice cream actually helps us feel full. And it helps meet our calcium needs.

Another food that I get questions about all the time is pizza. People get confused about pizza. They think they shouldn't have it. They think it's a bad food. They think it's loaded with fat. Lots of ways you can modify pizza to be much healthier.

A whole grain crust, a low fat part skim mozzarella cheese loaded with veggie toppings. And you can even choose alternative lean meat toppings like chicken or shrimp to help avoid the hidden fat that is in a lot of common toppings on pizza. So pizza can really be pretty healthy. These may actually help you feel satisfied and meet a broad spectrum of your nutrient needs, and maybe even help you manage your waistline as well.


GUPTA: You know, CNN i-Reporters from around the world are sending us their weight loss success stories. Amazing stuff. And on fit nation this year, we're sharing those inspiring stories with you, giving you a partner, a television partner.

We start with a woman named Patty. At her biggest, Patty had to ask for seat belt extenders on the airplanes. You know those things. Here's how she dropped the weight and potentially, and more importantly, added years to her life.


PATTY HILL, LOST 135 POUNDS: I've been overweight all my adult life and most of my childhood life.

GUPTA: And almost three years ago, Patty Hill tipped the scales at 280 pounds.

HILL: I couldn't fit in a roller coaster without sitting in the fat seat. If I went on a plane, I had to ask for a seat belt extender. So I looked into having a gastric bypass done.

GUPTA: Gastric bypass shortens the digestive tract and limits calorie intake, but an issue with Patty's heart prevented her from having the operation.

HILL: I thought my life's over. You know, I might as well just go kill myself. You know, I was really that depressed.

GUPTA: Patty's plans for surgery may have been derailed, but her surgery buddy went ahead with the procedure.

HILL: My girlfriend was scheduled to have her surgery the day after me. And she went ahead and she had her surgery and she died minutes later from a blood clot.

I started seeing a cardiologist for my heart problem. And about a year later, he asked me if I had ever heard of the lap band.

GUPTA: Laparoscopic banding or lap band is a simpler operation. An adjustable band regulates stomach size, restricting the amount of food you eat. While bariatric surgery in general is six times more common than just ten years ago, the stigma, that it's the ease way out, still exists.

HILL: With this surgery, it's a tool, it's definitely not a solution. I still have to diet, I still have to watch what I eat. It's not an easy way at all. You know, I have to cut my food up into pencil eraser size pieces and still chew it 25 times so it doesn't get stuck.

GUPTA: But for Patty, there are no regrets.

HILL: I can go out with my girlfriends now. And we dance and we have have fun. But I could never do that before. I probably added 15 to 25 years to my life.


GUPTA: And to hear more about Patty's story online at Plus if you have your own weight loss success story, submit it. Yes, i-Report on the Fit Nation Web site. You might just see on an upcoming HOUSE CALL.

But next, we answer your medical questions on our "Ask the Doctor" segment. Stay tuned.


GUPTA: It's time for our segment called "Ask the Doctor," where we answer the medical questions that are on your mind. And here's a question one viewer e-mailed sent me. "We know the HPV virus is transmitted via sexual why aren't males being advised to get vaccinated? Would the vaccination in males decrease the transmission of the disease?" That's from Lorna in New Mexico.

Lorna, great question, very popular one as well. Here's how it stands. Right now, the HPV vaccine Gardisil is only recommended for girls and women ages 11 to 26. Why? Because it's been widely tested on that age group.

However, doctors have expanded the scope of their research to include older women and men as well. Currently, the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine on males is unknown, but likely benefits may include preventing genital warts and possibly some rare cancers as well.

And studies are also underway to find out whether a drug like Gardisil can have prevent HPV infection and disease in men and have indirect health benefits for women. The result may lead to a vaccine licensed for males in the future.

Well, unfortunately, that's all the time we have for today. Remember, this is the place for the answers to all of your medical questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.