8 -year-old Zion Harvey gets a Double Hand Transplant

It was just announced today that 8-year old Zion Harvey became the world’s youngest recipient of a double hand transplant earlier this month. I found the story inspiring, but was not overly impressed with the science considering that we have read about a few dozen successful double hand transplant cases in recent years and I have covered numerous other medical miracle type developments in my once-a-month brief updates posts on this blog. Some medical miracles are no longer a big surprise to me, even though they probably should be.

Then I read that little Zion also has prosthetic legs. Apparently, he lost both his hands and feet at the age of 2 due to a sepsis infection. Then I read that he also had a kidney transplant from his mother at the age of 4 after two years of dialysis! This now makes this whole story an absolute miracle. After I saw the below videos on Zion, I had no choice but to immediately write a post about him, even though I never write two blog posts in one day.

A three-year update from 2014 on the world’s first double hand transplant recipient is quite encouraging.  An article on early stage prosthesis from the late 1800s was also published three days ago and is worth a read. Compare with prosthetics of today.

New update from August 26:

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

Several weeks ago, someone on the BTT hair loss forums posted about two important hair loss research related patents filed by inventors from the Bethesda, Maryland based Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (a government/military funded entity) in the USA.

The patents pertain to hair follicle neogenesis (regeneration of tissue) via skin substitutes made entirely from cultured human cells. The first was filed in 2011, and the second updated one was filed in 2014.  The three inventors for both patents are listed in the following order (which does not necessarily imply order of importance of contribution):

  1. Rajesh Thangapazham
  2. Thomas Darling
  3. Shaowei Li

All three of these researchers are PhD holders, and you can see their names on the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Dermatology Department Faculty Section (FYI — this is the first time in my life that I have used a domain name ending in .mil).  Of these three, only Dr. Rajesh Thangapazham seems to have a presence on Linkedin, and his work history related to hair and skin regeneration related research is quite impressive.  His recent achievement per their website is also very encouraging and suggests that he might be the lead inventor:

“Rajesh Thangapazham, Ph.D., a Research Assistant Professor in the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology, USU, was recently selected as a recipient of a 2015 Dermatology Foundation Research Award. Thangapazham will receive the Foundation’s Women’s Health Career Development Award for his project, “Genes Regulating Hair Follicle Neogenesis, Growth, and Development.” Thangapazham and colleagues have shown de novo hair follicle neogenesis in skin substitutes made entirely with cultured human cells. In his proposed work, Thangapazham will investigate molecules hypothesized to enhance the induction of human hair follicles to restore skin function and appearance. This major advance in skin regeneration is predicted to improve skin stability, healing and ultimately lead to a viable clinical strategy for restoring hair.”

These three doctors (along with others that included Dr. George Cotsarelis) published an important paper related to this work in 2014.  This paper was titled “Dissociated human dermal papilla cells induce hair follicle neogenesis in grafted dermal-epidermal composites.

It is quite amazing that myself and virtually all other hair loss forum members  missed looking into work being done by the US government and military with regards to hair and skin generation research.  In spite of articles such as this one from last year!  Over the decades, the US military and the US Department of Defense have been responsible for numerous technological breakthroughs. Almost always, a lot of their research is shrouded in secrecy for years.  Sometimes, their initial discoveries take decades before moving from in-house use to public use  (e.g., the Internet).

Besides housing the above mentioned Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences,  Bethesda is also home to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the National Institute of Health and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine.  Moreover, the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine is in nearby  Fort Detrick.

When it comes to a hair loss cure, will largely unheralded Bethesda beat out places such as New York, San Diego and Tokyo that are currently heavily over-represented in the world map of key hair loss research centers?

Finally, it seems like North Carolina based Wake Forest University and Dr. Anthony Atala are significantly involved with the US army’s research wing concerning regenerative medicine, and I have updated by recent post on hair loss research at Wake Forest University.  At the moment, I am thinking that the new topical hair loss treatment study at Wake Forest is related to an in-house developed product or to a product developed at one of the military research centers in Bethesda (but not anything related to the hair follicle neogenesis invention discussed in this post).