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September 13, 2012 | By Cassandra Willyard
Last fall, Dena Harris went to a rehab facility to visit her 90-year-old mother, who was recovering from a broken hip. Harris knew something wasn't right: Her mother's skin was pale and her eyes glassy. The doctors diagnosed her with a raging gut infection of Clostridium difficile , a nasty bacterium that causes watery diarrhea. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that C. difficile kills 14,000 people each year in the U.S. alone. Harris' mother, Ann Hart, received the standard treatment - a hefty dose of antibiotics - but the drugs provided only temporary relief.
August 14, 2012 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
After surviving a planned four-day "brain surgery" operation, the most advanced rover yet sent to Mars will take its first drive next week, NASA scientists said Tuesday. The Mars Science Laboratory rover, nicknamed Curiosity, had been stretching its limbs and checking out some of its cameras since it touched down on the Red Planet's surface Aug. 5. This weekend, engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge installed fresh software that will arm the rover with the know-how to do its job on Mars.
August 10, 2012 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
The Curiosity rover's landing wasn't quite perfect -- but if the Martian robot were an Olympic gymnast, it could earn a gold medal for its gymnastic contortions, according to NASA engineers. The Mars Science Laboratory's climactic Aug. 5 landing essentially happened on autopilot, with scientists and engineers in the control room at Jet Propulsion Laboratory waiting several minutes as the rover's signals traveled the roughly 150 million miles back to Earth. But Curiosity ended up roughly 1.5 miles away from its predicted touchdown zone - not bad, given that their projected landing zone was an ellipse 12 miles wide, mission engineers said Friday.
June 13, 2012 | By Amy Hubbard
"#calebskidney is almost ready to arrive in Caleb's surgery room!" So says a Twittercast of a kidney transplant now underway at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Kristofer Karol, public relations coordinator at Indiana University Health, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday morning that this isn't the first time a hospital has live tweeted a surgery -- laying bare on a social media platform what goes on behind the closed doors of an operating room -- but it's a first for Indiana.
June 2, 2012 | By Rene Lynch
"Zombie apocalypse," voodoo curses and a potent street drug called "bath salts. " Those are just a few of the angles the media have pursued after the bizarre case of a naked man shot and killed by Miami police as he was eating the face of another man. A less sensational angle? The long, sad journey that awaits the  homeless victim, Ronald Poppo, 65, who is believed to have lost about 80% of his face -- including one eye -- in the gruesome daylight attack. Poppo is not likely to get a face transplant, experts say. Such procedures are extremely rare.
May 31, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II
Transplants of healthy skin from a patient's own body can improve discoloration caused by vitiligo, researchers from the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit reported Thursday. The procedure was developed in Saudi Arabia, and the Ford researchers are the first U.S. team to attempt it, according to Dr. Iltefat Hamzavi, a Ford dermatologist. Although the study involved only about 30 patients, the pilot trial suggests that the procedure could be beneficial to many patients, he said. Vitiligo is a disease that occurs when the body's immune system kills cells called melanocytes in the skin.
May 2, 2012 | By Angel Jennings, Los Angeles Times
Episcopal Bishop J. Jon Bruno, head of the six-county Los Angeles diocese, has been diagnosed with leukemia and is undergoing aggressive treatment to fight the disease. The 65-year-old bishop said in an open letter that he had been suffering from what he thought was a bout of pneumonia since March. He underwent further tests after treatment failed to cure the "nagging problem. " Doctors at Good Samaritan Hospital discovered that Bruno had acute monocytic leukemia, a form of blood cancer.
April 27, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II / For the Booster Shots blog
Medical errors tend to occur more frequently at night and on weekends due to increased sleepiness, shortage of staff and a variety of other factors. Overall, such errors represent a significant problem for the medical community. A 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine showed that all medical errors -- including daytime errors, as well as night and weekend mistakes -- cause as many as 98,000 deaths each year and cost as much as $29 billion annually. Transplants are considered a source of concern by many experts because the surgeries occur when organs become available, and that is just as likely to be at an off-hour as during normal business hours.
April 26, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II / For the Booster Shots blog
In what is claimed to be the first operation of its kind, surgeons at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago have removed a transplanted kidney from its original recipient and implanted it in a second recipient. The kidney was failing in the first patient, but began fluorishing in the second and is now healthy. The first recipient of the kidney was Ray Fearing, a 27-year-old Arlington Heights, Ill., resident who suffers from focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), in which scar tissue develops on the kidney and prevents the organ from filtering waste from the bloodstream.
April 11, 2012 | By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times
A business dispute between two aviation companies at Van Nuys Airport is threatening emergency helicopter flights for injured and severely ill children from around Southern California to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. The disagreement could result in flight delays or even cancellations, according to executives at Helinet Aviation, which owns and operates 15 helicopters at the airport. Flights carrying donated organs for transplantation could also be affected, Helinet executives said.
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