Outside the Bubble 9/18/14

Spread of Ebola prompts global responses

Ebola Virus Disease, more commonly known as Ebola, has been slowly creeping across countries by silently killing sections of the populations of West African nations. Now claiming its fourth doctor in Sierra Leone, Ebola has wiped out over 4,000 people. While we in the US are not directly affected by this virus, it is a major priority for the World Health Organization (WHO), who predicts that this virus will rage for another 12 to 18 months. That is still enough time for this disease to cross over the oceans and infect other regions; air travel allows unsuspecting hosts to carry the disease to new continents, drastically increasing the number of people susceptible to infection.

In the past, Ebola was easier to contain because of its contained environment, but due to the fact that many Liberians are living together in close quarters, only so much can be done when hospitals are refusing to admit patients. When people start to have symptoms of vomiting, weak joints or sudden fever, they are to check into a health facility for treatment.

However, with the exponential increase of Ebola infections, hospitals can only admit those who are sick enough when the doctors can expedite patients—either healthy or dead—out. Even when admitted, the survival rate is only three out of every 10 people, while doctors and nurses are slowly being exposed to the bodily fluids that transfer the virus, rendering most health workers unavailable to work.

While things may seem bleak, the United States has taken precautionary measures. The U.S. military will be building a 25 bed, $22 million field hospital in Liberia to care for the health officials who have been infected. After being built, the Liberian government will be responsible for its continued maintenance.

Other countries have taken similar precautionary steps in light of the recent spread of the disease. France will be deploying 20 special disaster biologists to West Africa. Britain will build and run a 62-bed hospital in Sierra Leone. Cuba will commit to deploying 165 medical staff workers to West Africa as well, the largest number of health personnel committed to treating Ebola so far. Even so, WHO says that these hospital beds are only a part of the counteraction against this virus.

On Sept 18, the U.S. will host an emergency meeting of the security council to discuss public health crisis and begin a process to slow down and contain this virus. WHO says that these hospital beds are a part of the counteraction against this virus. By combining resources, they hope to stop Ebola before it reaches other countries.


Successful stem cell trial inspires hope

After extensive research, scientists can point to an individual instance in which Stem Cell Theory has been successfully utilized to treat a patient. When 31-year old Miami native Edgar Irastorza suffered from a heart attack, the episode damaged the cells that helped him pump blood through his body. To treat the issue, he enrolled in an experimental trial where they directly injected stem cells in his heart. After years, he is able to move and even dance. However, Irastorza’s case is only one among millions of people who suffer from various disabling diseases, and not all end with such successful results.

Stem Cell Theory describes how embryonic stem cells—those with the ability to live as long as the organism does and create other cells—ranch out to make more cells called stem cells. These stem cells are then picked to be injected in the damaged area and replace the inefficient cells, thus creating an idea that stem cells can repair the  body. While there are people who remain skeptical, others look to this as a future avenue for medicine.

Not every utilization of Stem Cell Theory has proven successful, though, thus tempering any overly optimistic attitudes toward Irastorza’s case. For example, for former Governor of Texas Rick Perry, the results proved less positive. When his doctor injected stem cells in his spine back in 2011, it was revealed that his doctor had no prior experience with stem cell research and had no data to back up that the stem cell spine injection would help. The injections did not help treat his medical problem.

As most people are propagating how stem cells can aggressively counteract difficult diseases such as HIV, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease or Alzheimer’s, progress has been slower in the last few years.

There are dangers to stem cell research. In order to attain the most accurate results pertaining to humans, clinical trials must experiment using human cells. Studies have found that growing these cells outside of the body and then injecting them into a new environment may cause a tumor cell to form.

Irastorza was able to survive by being injected with stem cells created from his own bone marrow to make embryonic cells, which eventually grew into tissue for the heart. With that, we can see major progress in the future of stem cell research.


—Lisa Je ’18 .

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