Last updated December 14, 2017 at 10:14 am
The Check Up is a weekly feature highlighting some of the best, most fascinating, most important, or simply unmissable health, medical, and human stories from around the web.
Vaginal mesh implants banned
Kicking off this week in ‘Finally!’ news: vaginal mesh implants have been banned in Australia. There is still a Senate inquiry and a class action lawsuit underway, but this is an important win in a frankly terrible story. Women were given medical treatment they not only didn’t need but was actively harmful. Implanted after giving birth, this mesh would supposedly support vaginal tissue, sort of like scaffolding, but instead it caused terrible pain, recurring infections, and inability to have sex. To add insult to literal injury, the mesh implants had been aggressively sold to surgeons by the manufacturer without proper clinical trials, and it took years for the women affected to be taken seriously. This whole saga seems more like a movie – tell me you can’t picture Julia Roberts starring in the courtroom drama version.
Successful birth from uterus transplant
While the Swedes got there first, an American medical team is celebrating the first live birth from a uterus transplant in the USA. The surgery to transplant a uterus takes ten hours and is, unsurprisingly, incredibly intricate. Since the newly transplanted uterus isn’t connected to the mother’s ovaries, the pregnancy needs to be started with IVF. But as this case, and the handful of previous successful ones show, not having a uterus doesn’t destine a person to infertility.
Humans are just walking virus warehouses
This story will be one to watch – I’ve got that same feeling I got when I first read about the gut microbiome many years ago. The balance in our bodies between mucus, virus, and bacteria is probably crucial for our immune system. Research shows that our cells can transport a type of virus – called phages – through body parts that should be impermeable. And we probably need phages to keep our bacterial population in check. At a time where we’re desperate to start replacing conventional antibiotics, this finding hasn’t arrived a moment too soon. Plus, this is just a really fascinating article – our bodies are amazing!
Bad news on cancer immunotherapy
This story is a bit of a buzzkill, but an important buzzkill – cancer immunotherapy might not be the wonder treatment of the future it looked like. I guess if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Immunotherapy is supposed to be general and specific at the same time – once a patient receives immunotherapy, their own immune system takes over to give them the most personal treatment possible. It’s just not reliable – as the linked article says ‘When immunotherapy works, it really works. But not for every kind of cancer, and not for every patient—not even, it turns out, for the majority of them’. It’s a reality check, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There are still plenty of research resources being poured into this area, so if there is a viable immunotherapy solution, hopefully we’ll find it.
The sixth … and seventh, and eighth, and ninth sense
And finally, mythbusting what we thought we knew about our bodies – taste and smell edition.