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Courtesy Greg SpierBY. DR. FORD VOX

(BOSTON) -- A Massachusetts family’s experience giving marijuana edibles to their dying patriarch is set to kick off a desperately needed investigation into how cannabis might treat some of the more troubling symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that affects 5.7 million Americans.

Alexander Spier spent three years during the Holocaust in Auschwitz and other concentration camps as punishment not only for his heritage but also because he had fought against the Nazis with the Dutch Underground. Spier was eventually able to emigrate to the U.S. from Holland in 1945, where he began working as a watchmaker and jeweler before moving into real estate and construction.

Today, Spier’s family runs the multimillion-dollar company that he built, Mayfair Realty & Development Corporation. They’ve also carried on his tradition of philanthropy through the Spier Family Foundation, which has supported a variety of medical research through different hospitals in the past.

Harvard’s McLean Psychiatric Hospital is one of those institutions supported by the Spiers. And now, it’s partnering with the family to research the potential benefits of medical marijuana on Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Spier died of complications related to Alzheimer’s in 2017. His final two years were characterized by rapid decline, which his son, Greg Spier, described as torturous.

“It was the most difficult time of my life, having to see him deteriorate. My father spoke five languages, and he was speaking Dutch and German, reliving the three concentration camps he survived,” Greg Spier said, recalling how his father often pleaded, “Where is my mother?” in German.
 Alex’s story is typical for many of the 50 percent of Alzheimer’s patients who develop so-called neuropsychiatric symptoms of the condition, characterized by agitation, anxiety, depression, psychosis, wandering and pacing.

For Alex Spier, the symptoms became too much to continue with assisted living, where he managed to escape twice. But even after his family moved him to a dedicated memory care program in Florida, where he was given supplementary care and a private attendant, his condition progressed.

Doctors resorted to aggressive medications, including a variety of antipsychotic and antiseizure drugs, but the sedation they caused — side effects of their use — only seemed to worsen his agitation and delirium.

In a decision that at first divided the family, Greg Spier and a niece who lives in Colorado decided to try marijuana edibles. The last-ditch effort involved Greg Spier, along with a private assistant, feeding his dad granola bar marijuana edibles up to four times a day during his final three months.

“The only thing that seemed to give him any reprieve was the marijuana,” Greg Spier said, adding that it allowed his dad to sleep.

 According to Dr. Brent Forester, chief of the division of geriatric psychiatry at McLean, the science of medical cannabis for dementia is far behind what families like the Spiers are already doing on their own. Alex Spier wasn’t his patient, but Forester was fascinated to learn about the family’s success with edibles last year.

Forester’s own research involves the synthetic THC drug dronabinol, an FDA-approved medicine for chemotherapy-related nausea and AIDS-associated weight loss, which can cost $400 to $1,500 without insurance coverage.

Forester and his colleagues have published promising study results after giving dronabinol to agitated and distressed dementia patients, and are currently recruiting for a larger multicenter trial funded by the National Institute on Aging.

It’s true that in teens and young adults, frequent marijuana use is associated with a lower IQ and an increased risk of psychiatric disorders. In adults who have been using it since adolescence, it has been found to erode memory and visuospatial skills.

But these negative impacts could be limited to young brains that are exposed to marijuana for extended periods, and they might not be true for people who begin in older age. When a team of German and Israeli researchers gave low doses of THC to old mice, for example, learning and memory improved to a level similar to young mice.

When these scientists examined the brain tissue, they found that the mice given the THC had more complex hippocampal connections. By contrast, THC worsened brain function in young mice.

More promising for Alzheimer’s disease, animal research has also shown that THC may increase the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, just like the FDA-approved dementia drug Aricept. THC also appears to slow the accumulation of amyloid beta plaques, the hallmark characteristic of Alzheimer’s.
Forester and his colleagues theorize that these protective effects — which result from the use of cannabinoid drugs — might reduce the risk of the abnormal behaviors associated with dementia. However, only time and research will tell.

The Spier Family Foundation is eager to support this work and is giving private dollars to fund it. Federal funding is difficult to obtain with marijuana still being classified as a schedule I controlled substance, defined as “having no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

There are currently no FDA-approved drugs that treat the behavioral symptoms of dementia, which can become the most distressing aspect of the condition. Current drugs that are given to Alzheimer’s patients, such as antipsychotics and benzodiazepines, can even make their symptoms worse due to side effects, Forester said.

“We really need to open up opportunities to study medical marijuana for this particular indication. I think there’s enough evidence from the synthetic THC as well as anecdotal reports that it’s certainly worth studying,” Forester said.

The Spier Family Foundation’s willingness to fund this work is extraordinarily important, Forester said, adding that he was hopeful the medical marijuana industry will see the value in supporting such research as well.

Dr. Ford Vox practices rehabilitation medicine at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta and contributes analysis to the ABC News Medical Unit.

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GarysFRP/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The holidays are upon us and for many that means family time in the kitchen preparing delicious baked goods and maybe even licking the spoon before the cookies go into the oven. So the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out a warning this week to, “Say No To Raw Dough!”

Dr. Todd Ellerin -- who admits he doesn’t bake -- said it’s the raw flour and uncooked eggs that can make us sick.

The Director of Infectious Diseases at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Massachusetts and an instructor at Harvard Medical School says,

“People may not be aware that flour is not treated to destroy bacteria and there have been outbreaks of a certain type of E. coli linked to the ingestion of raw dough,” said Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Massachusetts and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.

In 2016, an outbreak of E. coli infections linked to raw flour made 63 people sick.

Ellerin warned that “complications of this type of E. coli can include bloody diarrhea, need for prolonged hospitalization, and kidney failure, breakdown of red blood cells that carry oxygen.”

Additionally, raw eggs that are used to make raw dough or batter can contain a germ called salmonella that can make you sick if the eggs are eaten raw or not cooked enough.

Like untreated flour, eggs are safe to eat when cooked and handled properly.

Kim Powers is the senior writer for ABC News’ 20/20 and the published author of three books, but his true love may be baking.

“I basically got into baking so I could lick the bowl first. I did it first decades ago, when I’d lick the spoon when my mother was baking," he said.

"Now, I have a Kitchen Aid mix-master of my own, and have graduated to licking the entire bowl,” said Powers, the reigning, two-time baker-of-the-year for the annual ABC News office cookie bake off.

“It takes me back to good memories of childhood. That’s worth the risk of a little salmonella!”

We should point out that the CDC says Salmonella symptoms typically include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. In most cases, illness lasts four to seven days and people recover without antibiotics. Illness from Salmonella bacteria can be serious and is more dangerous for older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems.

Dr. Ellerin wants people to have a nice holiday season and doesn’t want to ruin Kim’s fun in the kitchen, but has a wish for one and all, “We are used to hearing Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas, but in the kitchen as we are preparing to make cookies, it should be Ho Ho Ho, please avoid the raw dough!”

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Risto0/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is alerting the public about the Asian longhorned tick, a species of tick not normally found in the United States that is known for its ability to mass-reproduce. Since its discovery in 2017, it has been spotted in several states, according to this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“The full public health and agricultural impact of this tick discovery and spread is unknown,” said Ben Beard, Ph.D., deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in a press release. “In other parts of the world, the Asian longhorned tick can transmit many types of pathogens common in the United States. We are concerned that this tick, which can cause massive infestations on animals, on people and in the environment, is spreading in the United States.”

There is a lot of mystery surrounding the Asian longhorned tick, so here’s what you should know.

The Asian longhorned tick can reproduce much faster than other ticks.

The Asian longhorned tick can produce offspring at 1,000 to 2,000 eggs at a time, just like the more than 850 other species of ticks. However, the Asian longhorned tick is unique in that it doesn’t need to mate to reproduce — it can do so all by itself. As a result, when an infestation occurs, thousands of ticks can end up on an animal or person from a single tick.

Nine states have reported Asian longhorned tick infestations.

New Jersey was the first state to report the tick after finding an infestation on a sheep. But since then, eight other states — Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia — have reported finding the tick on a variety of hosts, including people, wildlife, domestic animals and in the environmental.

Experts from the local to the federal level are working to prevent the spread of illness.

To better understand the full potential impact of this tick discovery in the United States, the CDC says it is working with a network of federal, state, and local experts who specialize in veterinary and agricultural science and public health. Their goals include determining where the ticks are located, the kinds of pathogens they might carry that could infect people and how often they bite humans and animals. They also plan to develop prevention and control plans.

“In other countries, bites from these ticks can make people and animals seriously ill,” said Dr. Sloan Manning, medical director of Novant Health Urgent Care and Occupational Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, told ABC News. “As of October 2018, no harmful germs have been found in the ticks collected in the United States”

Though Asian longhorned ticks pose a threat, you should be looking out for all ticks.

Ticks are already very common in the U.S., living in areas with tall grass or around animals. They can’t survive without feeding on blood, so when they find a host, they latch on and stay on.

Though ticks are often associated with Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Ehrlichiosis, Manning said that most of them won’t be carrying these illnesses. Still, it’s important to remove them as the longer they stay on, the more likely they are to transmit a disease — if they are carrying one.

“It takes several hours for a tick to transmit bacteria into the skin,” Manning said. “If you think it has been attached for more than 24 hours or if you’ve developed a fever, rash or other typical symptoms, you should seek medical attention.”

In most cases, however, “removing the tick using tweezers with firm pressure will do,” she added.

Here are some tips for avoiding tick bites:

• Avoid wooded, grassy or damp areas or places where you might encounter deer or other animals.

• Wear clothing and gear, such as boots, long pants, long-sleeve shirts and socks, that are treated with 0.5 percent permethrin.

• Apply insect repellent containing DEET onto exposed skin, and follow the instructions on the container. In general, repellents that contain 98 percent DEET will last about 10 hours, while those with seven percent DEET will last about two hours.

• Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find ticks.

• Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body, including under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and especially in the hair.

• Make sure your pets are treated monthly with flea and tick protection.

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omersukrugoksu/iStock(BUTEMBO, Democratic Republic of Congo) -- The second-largest Ebola outbreak in history has spread to a major city.

Butembo, a bustling city of almost a million people in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is reporting an increasing number of cases of Ebola virus disease in the country's current epidemic. There has been a "significant increase" in infections there over the past three weeks, with a total of 25 confirmed cases thus far, according to Thursday's bulletin from the country's health ministry.

Butembo is a key trading and transport hub with links to other major cities in the country as well as to neighboring Uganda. It's about two times the size of the city of Beni, the outbreak's epicenter, and is located just 35 miles away. The health ministry said the "high density and mobility" of Butembo's population presents new challenges to containment efforts, already complicated by sporadic rebel attacks on remote villages in and around Beni.

Since the outbreak was declared on Aug. 1, a total of 471 people have reported symptoms of hemorrhagic fever in the country's eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, which share borders with Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan. Among those cases, 423 have tested positive for Ebola virus disease, which causes an often-deadly type of hemorrhagic fever, according to the health ministry.

There have been 273 deaths thus far, including 225 people who died from confirmed cases of Ebola. The other deaths are from probable cases of Ebola, the ministry said.

The ongoing outbreak is one of the world's worst, second only to the 2014-2016 outbreak in multiple West African nations that infected 28,652 people and killed 11,325, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ebola is endemic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is the 10th outbreak and the worst the country has seen since 1976, the year that scientists first identified the deadly virus near the eponymous Ebola River.

"No other epidemic in the world has been as complex as the one we are currently experiencing," the Democratic Republic of the Congo's health minister, Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga, said in a statement last month.

The World Health Organization received approval to administer an experimental Ebola vaccine, using a "ring vaccination" approach, around the epicenter of the current outbreak. More than 40,000 people, including health workers and children, have been vaccinated in the outbreak zone since Aug. 8, according to the country's health ministry.

The vaccine, which was developed by American pharmaceutical company Merck, has proved effective against the country's previous outbreak in the western province of Equateur.

The number of Ebola cases in the current outbreak would probably have already surpassed 10,000 if it weren't for the vaccination teams, the ministry said Thursday.

North Kivu and Ituri, where cases are being reported, are among the most populous provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are also awash with violence and insecurity, particularly in the mineral-rich borderlands where militia activity has surged over the past year, all of which complicates the international response to the Ebola outbreak.

The security situation in the region has at times stymied the response efforts. Meanwhile, health workers are battling misinformation and mistrust from the local community, partly due to many years of conflict in the region.

There is a reluctance among some wary residents to seek care or allow health workers to vaccinate, conduct contact tracing and perform safe burials. That resistance has been expressed more violently than typically seen during previous Ebola outbreaks, according to the health ministry. A "fringe minority population" in these areas have destroyed medical equipment and health centers and have even attacked workers, the ministry said Thursday.

The epidemic is expected to last for "several" more months and the risk of spread will remain high until the outbreak is stomped out completely, according to the ministry.

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XiXinXing/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration has finalized a rollback of school lunch regulations championed for years by former first lady Michelle Obama.

Under the rules first announced last year, schools are now allowed to offer more flavored milk options, like chocolate. Additionally, the Obama-era efforts to limit sodium content in school lunches have been delayed or partially eliminated.

The announcement Thursday doesn't require schools to make any changes, but allows them to relax restrictions on those products.

The changes will impact 99,000 schools and institutions that feed 30 million children every year, according to the Department of Agriculture.

At a May 2017 press conference first announcing the move to deregulate school food, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the decision was not meant to reduce nutritional standards. He argued that children would avoid nutritious foods all together if they weren't given more flavored options.

"I wouldn't be as big as I am today without chocolate milk," Perdue said at the time.

The decision is part of the Trump administration’s broad efforts to reduce “unnecessary regulatory burdens” across the federal government.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food policy advocacy group, condemned the move.

“The Trump administration is putting politics before children’s health in ways worse than were expected,” the organization said in a statement.

Park Wilde, a food policy professor at Tufts University, said the USDA should provide clear evidence before rolling back standards.

"For many years, leading researchers and public health nutrition organizations have urged USDA to provide children with school meals that have less salt and sugar, and more whole grains,” Wilde said. “This rule does the opposite."

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toeytoey2530/iStock(MIAMI) -- The organization leading the worldwide search to find units of a rare blood type for a 2-year-old desperately in need of life-saving cancer treatment has received a "tremendous response" to the family's public plea to locate donors, a representative told ABC News.

OneBlood has received 12,000 emails alone since releasing a campaign Monday to locate donors for a type of blood so rare that less than 4 percent of people on the planet possess it, Susan Forbes, vice president of marketing and communications for OneBlood, told ABC News.

"The world is really rallying around this little girl to try and find some compatible blood for her," Forbes said.

Before Zainab Mughal's story was made public, the family held local blood drives near their home in Miami in an effort to find a match, Forbes said. When no matches turned up, the team decided to "cast a wider net," Forbes said.

Zainab, who was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma about two months ago, is missing a common antigen in her red blood cells known as Indian-B, her parents, Raheel Mughal and Mariam Mehmood, said in an interview Thursday. Because the antigen is so common, it's difficult to find blood donors who don't have it, Forbes said.

In addition, the donor will need to be of Pakistani, Indian or Iranian descent, and have blood types "O" or "A" to be a match, Forbes said. No one in Zainab's immediate and extended family has been a match.

Mughal and Mehmood knew their daughter was seriously ill due to constant fevers and constipation as well as a mass that had grown on her stomach while her arms remained skinny, they said.

After Zainab was diagnosed, doctors did not have a single unit of blood in stock to transfuse her, Mughal said.

So far, OneBlood has located three matches, including one in the United Kingdom near London, with the help of the American Rare Donor Program, Forbes said. All three have since sent units of blood to the Miami area, where the family lives, Forbes said.

But it's still not enough, Zainab's parents said. Zainab will need about seven to 10 donors who can stagger blood donations for the course of her treatment, Forbes said.

Zainab will also have to undergo two bone marrow transplants because her cancer has spread to her bone marrow, the family said. The transplants will make her stronger and allow doctors to give her higher doses of chemotherapy, Forbes said, but they currently only have enough units for one surgery. Without a second surgery, Zainab will have a higher chance of relapsing, her father said.

Mughal and Mehmood have a "strong faith" that Zainab will make it because of the strength she's displayed throughout her illness. Even after the fourth round of chemotherapy, she was still active, smiling and playing, her mother said.

The only time Zainab's spirits are low is when she goes to the hospital because she knows she'll be poked and prodded by needles, Mughal said.

The search to find blood for Zainab is an "industry-wide" effort within the blood banking community, Forbes told ABC News.

"Every blood center in this country is trying to find compatible blood for this little girl," she said.

In addition, Zainab's case is "bringing awareness" to others who may be lacking the Indian-B antigen, and identifying them and adding them to the rare donor program will be a "wonderful thing, not only for Zainab but for future people also in the same situation as her," Forbes said.

Mughal urged well-wishers to go out and donate blood, describing his daughter's need as a "death-and-life situation."

"Everybody who's listening, please go out and do donate the blood," he said. "Your blood is not gonna be wasted."

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Mac99/iStockBY: DR. SUMIR SHAH

(NEW YORK) -- Fifty-eight million Americans are still exposed to secondhand smoke, according to a new report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s a proven danger, and exposure rates have been plummeting over the years -- until now. In 1988, 87 percent of people were exposed to secondhand smoke; in 2011 it was only 25 percent. But according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, progress has stalled in recent years. Worse, exposure remains dis proportionally high for some groups: 38 percent of children ages 3 to 11, 48 percent of people living below the poverty line, 73 percent of people living with a smoker, and 30 percent of people without a high school diploma.

These new figures are based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a study designed to evaluate the overall health of Americans. Researchers conducted home interviews and took laboratory samples, looking for serum cotinine -- an indicator of recent nicotine exposure, the highly addictive chemical found in cigarettes.

What is Secondhand Smoke?

Secondhand smoke is cigarette smoke inhaled by someone who isn’t smoking. A combination of smoke from a burning cigarette and the smoke exhaled by smokers, it contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds of these are toxic and at least 70 are known to cause cancer.

How dangerous is it?

Not only does tobacco use claim 6 million lives per year among users, secondhand smoke has been responsible for at least 2.5 million deaths in nonsmokers since 1964. There is no acceptable level of secondhand smoke.

Exposure to secondhand smoke has been associated with countless health problems. Aside from raising the risk for asthma, respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome, it can even raise the risk of heart disease and stroke by almost 30 percent, according to the CDC. In fact, even brief contact can irritate and damage blood vessels. Secondhand smoke also increases the risk of lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent; even if they didn’t light the cigarette, people nearby are breathing in some of the same toxic chemicals.

What is being done?

While we did see an almost 70 percent decline since 1988, progress has stalled, and 1 in 4 nonsmokers are still exposed to significant amounts of secondhand smoke. The CDC says the slow adoption of legal smoke free areas could, ironically, be to blame. So far, 27 states and the District of Columbia have passed smoke-free laws, but the implementation of such laws is slowing down. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also has plans that will require most public housing to be smoke-free by July 31, 2018. The CDC is recommending further implementation of “smoke-free” policies in work and public places.

“We know what works to reduce secondhand smoke exposure,” said Dr. Corinne Graffunder, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health in a press release. “Smoke-free environments are the best way to fully protect all people from the dangers of secondhand smoke.”

The public should take particular notice of the people who may be affected most by secondhand smoke -- 38 percent of children between the ages of 3 to 11.

“These findings reveal that there is still much more to do to protect everyone -- especially children --from this completely preventable health hazard,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield in a press release.

Sumir Shah, M.D. is an emergency medicine physician in New York City, and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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Lorenza Marzocchi/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Considering a trip to the park this weekend? It could save your life.

According to new research from the American Heart Association, people who spend time in neighborhoods with green space may have better blood vessel health and lower levels of biomarkers that indicate high stress and high risk of heart attacks or stroke.

In the study, researchers set out to understand the effect of green space on one’s heart. They collected blood and urine samples from over 400 people during a five-year span and assessed for markers of blood vessel injury and heart disease risk. They compared these results with the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), a tool from the U.S. Geological Survey to categorize levels of vegetation in an area.

The researchers found that in areas of higher greenery, people had 5 to 10 percent lower urinary levels of epinephrine -- a marker of stress and major player in the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the stress response.

High activity of the sympathetic nervous system has been shown to cause changes in blood pressure, clotting ability and inflammation -- all major risk factors to heart disease.

They also found, through blood tests, that this same group had better ability to repair blood vessels.

The study’s lead author, Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., said in a statement that “increasing the amount of vegetation in a neighborhood may be an unrecognized environmental influence on cardiovascular health and a potentially significant public health intervention.”

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Wolterk/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company issued a recall of its infants' liquid ibuprofen after discovering higher concentrations of the medication in some packages.

Tris Pharma said it voluntarily recalled three lots of "Infants' Ibuprofen Concentrated Oral Suspension, USP (NSAID)" on Wednesday because it possibly contained higher amounts of ibuprofen than advertised.

The recalled drugs were sold at Walmart, CVS and Family Dollar locations under store-brand names, Tris Pharma said in a statement.

"There is a remote possibility that infants, who may be more susceptible to a higher potency level of drug, and therefore may be more vulnerable to permanent NSAID-associated renal injury," the statement said. "Adverse effects that may be experienced are nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain, or more rarely, diarrhea. Tinnitus, headache and gastrointestinal bleeding are also possible adverse effects."

"To date, Tris Pharma Inc. has not received any reports of adverse events related to the lots of product that are the subject of this recall," the company added.

The Monmouth Junction, New Jersey-based drug maker said it sold the affected lots "to one customer, which distributed the lots into the U.S. market." Tris Pharma did not list the distributor's name, but it said it sent out an "urgent recall notice" and is arranging for the return of the recalled product.

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XiXinXing/iStock(SAO PAULO) -- In what could prove to be a major advancement for couples facing infertility, the first baby born from a deceased donor uterus transplant was successfully completed at the University Of Sao Paulo School of Medicine in Brazil, according to a report in the scientific journal Lancet.

While babies born from live donor uterus transplants have been done nearly a dozen times before, including once in 2017 at Baylor Scott & White Hospital in Dallas, this birth marks the first time doctors have been able to remove the uterus from a recently deceased donor and have it result in a live birth.

The birth followed 10 unsuccessful attempts, according to the authors of the new study.

The baby girl was born in Dec. 2017, but had to be closely monitored to ensure she was meeting appropriate developmental milestones. Likewise, the mother's health required months of ongoing monitoring to ensure that she didn't suffer any adverse effects from having the uterus transplanted and then later removed.

ABC News Chief Health and Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a practicing OB/GYN in Englewood, New Jersey, is optimistic about the breakthrough.

“This represents a major advance in reproductive health," she said. "While uterine transplantation sounds extreme, it can be indicated in women born without a uterus, or in women who have a non-functional or surgically-absent uterus."

Ashton cautioned, though, that the procedure is anything but routine, and not for everyone.

"The surgery involved is extensive, and there is the needed for antirejection medication post-operatively," she said. "While uterine surrogacy is legal in the U.S., this offers an option, albeit an extreme and expensive one, to women who want to carry their own baby.”

Before this breakthrough, women suffering from infertility due to congenital abnormalities, cancer, or other illnesses had few options aside from surrogacy or adoption. With the introduction of living donors as a possibility in 2014, there was some hope, but living donors are understandably hard to come by because of the intrusive removal process, making this a new frontier for infertility medicine.

What is a uterus transplant?

Uterine transplantation is a multi-step process that requires coordination among numerous physicians. Upon encountering a suitable candidate and donor, doctors must act quickly to remove the uterus and transport it to the patient. The patient must then undergo an operation implanting the new uterus into her body.

Who is a candidate?

Women who have irreversible infertility are the primary candidates to receive a transplant. Infertility, in general, affects about 15 percent of couples of reproductive age. Within this group about one in 500 women have irreversible infertility -- which can be due to a congenital malformation, cancer, or other illness, leading to genetic absence or removal of the uterus.

In the case announced on Tuesday, the mother is a 32-year-old female who had congenital infertility. She has a disease called Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser Syndrome, commonly known as congenital uterine absence. It's a rare genetic condition, affecting about 4,500 women worldwide, in which they are born without a uterus.

Who are the donors?

In this study, recently deceased women who had given consent for organ transplant were screened based on previous ability to give birth, blood type and a lack of any history of sexual disease.

What are the risks?

The major risks associated with this process are organ rejection through blood type mismatch, inadequate immune system suppression or severe infection of the transplanted organ. In this trial, the mother was given standard doses of immune suppression medications for almost six months, with positive results, before implantation of the embryo was completed. Normal prenatal testing, including blood sugar tests and ultrasounds, were all done and returned without any abnormalities.

Is a uterus transplant permanent?

No. In order to keep the uterus after birth, the mother would have to continue taking immune system suppression medications which can pose risks. In this case, a cesarean section was performed for birth at 35 weeks gestation, and along with the delivery of an almost 6 pound healthy baby girl, the uterus was also removed.

The authors of the study acknowledge that, as a new medical procedure, there is much further work to be done to make the procedure safer and more efficient.

However, this advance serves as motivation to expand prospects for a novel technique in giving some women a chance at childbirth by greatly enlarging the potential donor population.

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AleMoraes244/iStock(NEW YORK) -- When a friend or family member has a baby, the usual response is to buy a gift for the new baby -- a rattle, blanket or even an outfit. But some women argue that the gifts should actually be for the woman who did the hard work of giving birth to a newborn.

Meghan Walbert, a freelance writer and mom to an 8-year-old boy, had that realization recently when her sister-in-law was giving birth to her first child.

“I’m just thinking the baby is just this one little person who’s not going to know what’s going on,” Walbert said. “In the meantime, my sister-in-law is about to have a C-section and her life is about to change.”

When Walbert’s nephew was born, she gave her sister-in-law gifts she hoped would provide her comfort in her new life as a mom.

“Knowing she loves coffee, I got her a new coffee mug and new coffee and fuzzy slipper socks,” said Walbert, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “My focus was to really have it be about her and not be about, ‘Now you’re a mom and you need these mom things.’”

Kate Westervelt, of Boston, agrees on focusing on the new mom, but she likes to give gifts that focus specifically on the mom's healing from childbirth.

Westervelt, 32, founded Mombox, which offers postpartum-care giftboxes for new moms, after going through her own postpartum experience with her son, Noah, who is now 2 years old.

"I didn’t know as a first-time mom the things I would need for my own self-care," she said. "We get sucked into the conversation about car seats and strollers and pregnancy glow, but we don’t have an honest conversation about what our bodies will need."

Westervelt's revelation came when she and her husband were on their way home from the hospital, and they had to stop at Target to buy recovery products such as pads, creams and nursing aids.

"I had a giant ice pack in my underwear and I hadn’t slept in 72 hours," Westervelt said. "I had to waddle between the pharmacy and baby sections because there is no postpartum section in stores."

Mombox offers gift boxes for regular births and C-sections with products like pain-relief tea, belly oil and overnight pads, all of which are made by female-owned companies and tested by other moms.

"You’re sort of drowning in baby supplies, and you don’t need half of them, and then you’re desperate for supplies that you need but you’re so overwhelmed with caring for a new life that you don’t raise your hand to say, 'I need help,'" Westervelt said. "We get groceries and everything delivered to home so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be delivering this to moms."

Walbert said the main reason she believes in giving gifts to new moms instead of newborns is because receiving a gift can help make a new mom "feel seen."

"When you’re pregnant, there’s a lot of attention bestowed on you, and once the baby comes, a lot of times, all of that attention naturally transfers to the baby," she said. "You forget to ask the mom, 'How are you feeling?'"

A gift to a new mom is also an acknowledgement of the physical and emotional experience she just went through, Walbert noted.

"Giving birth is a physical experience, emotional experience and your life has changed at the same time you physically feel very run down, you’re exhausted," she said. "It's important to show each other that, 'Hey you had a baby and he’s cute and I see you too, and the best thing you can do is take care of you to be a good mom.'"

Walbert wrote an article titled, "Send a New Mom Gifts for Her, Not the Baby," in which she details what she calls the "New Mom Care Package formula," based on ideas from other moms.

After posting the article, Walbert said she heard from a relative who still remembered the nightgown a friend had gifted her after she gave birth to her son 30 years ago.

"That little gesture [of a gift], when everything else is sort of about the baby, can make [a mother] feel special and important," Walbert said. "People really remember it."

Here are the five items that comprise Walbert's New Mom Care Package formula. She recommends including one or two of each of the items in a gift box as the perfect gift for a new mom:

1. Something to keep her hydrated, like a large water bottle or a set of herbal teas.

2. Something to keep her warm, like a robe, scarf, sweater or slipper socks.

3. Something to keep her pampered, like a gift certificate for a massage or her favorite lip balm or scented lotions.

4. Something to treasure, like a ring with the baby’s birthstone, or a bracelet or necklace engraved with the baby’s name, first initial or birth date.

5. A great card that congratulates the new mom on "bringing that baby into existence and still managing to function at a basic human level," as well as reminding her that "to be a good parent, you have to remember to take care of yourself. Your oxygen mask goes on first."

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HCA Orange Park Medical Center(ORANGE PARK, Fla.) -- A man recovering from paralysis has stood up for the first time to propose marriage in a heartwarming moment that was captured on video.

Jacob Newbern, 27, popped the question to Mary Batar on Monday at HCA Healthcare’s Orange Park Medical Center Inpatient Rehabilitation Center in Florida -- one day before returning home from the hospital.

"She was shocked," Newbern told ABC News' Good Morning America. "It was my very first time standing up completely by myself. I'm surprised she didn't drop down to the floor. She was so excited."

Newbern was diagnosed last month with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) -- a rare neurological disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks part of its peripheral nervous system. Newbern completed 22 days of rehab at HCA Healthcare’s Orange Park Medical Center Inpatient Rehabilitation Center and made a quick recovery.

"[He's doing] phenomenal," said Dr. Ronnie Bond, the neurologist who treated Newbern at HCA’s Orange Park Medical Center. "For him, he was progressing way more than I would expect. With this disease it can take months before there's any type of recovery."

Newbern said that after Bond told him about the long recovery associated with GBS, it motivated him to persevere.

"I looked at Dr. Bond in his eyes and I said, 'I plan on walking in two months,'" Newbern recalled. "I was 100 percent dedicated."

Newbern worked daily to regain mobility and even took 68 steps during a session, he said. Then on Monday, Newbern surprised Batar by not only asking her hand in marriage, but doing so while standing independently for the first time in nearly a month.

Newbern said this journey with Batar and her positive attitude was one of the many reasons why he proposed. The couple have been together for five years and have 10-month-old twin girls, Kallie and Kinsley, as well as a 3-year-old daughter, Braelynn.

"I've seen my worst and I've seen my best and she's been there with me the whole time," Newbern said. "She's very strong. Any woman that can deal with three kids, two newborns and a 3-year-old...with all the stress that she's got on her and still being able to come in here with a smile on her face, I just can't believe that."

Newbern is being discharged Wednesday and will continue improving through outpatient therapy. He hopes to spread awareness and help others catch the early symptoms of GBS.

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Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Almost 30 years ago, Paul Smith traveled to the nation’s capital to watch as the 41st President of the United States took the oath of office and his place in history.

It was Jan. 20, 1989 — the day President George H.W. Bush was inaugurated. Already, Smith admired Bush as a “strong, silent type” who “didn’t need credit for what he did, as long as it got done.” But he didn’t know then how the president would have such a direct impact on his life — and the parallel challenges both would eventually face.

Bush used a wheelchair in his final years and Smith has lived with physical disabilities for two decades, ever since a car accident left him with a shattered knee that would eventually require two replacement surgeries. Smith didn’t know when he was watching the 1989 inauguration that, as president, Bush would sign the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

“It affects me more because I’m in this position now, but just like Lyndon B. Johnson and the Civil Rights Act, it’s one of the cornerstones of equal rights for people,” Smith said of the 1990 law. “It gave freedom to people who didn’t have it before.”

On Tuesday, Smith, 52, returned to Washington, D.C., on the crutches he’s used on-and-off for about two years to pay his respects to Bush as he lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

He didn’t have the ease of mobility he had 30 years ago, and he was already feeling swelling in his knee from the red-eye flight he’d taken from Salt Lake City, Utah, that departed the night before. In fact, Smith didn’t even tell his wife he planned on making the trip until he was at the airport, he said, because he knew she’d tell him not to risk the issues it might cause for his knee.

“I ran away,” Smith, a self-described “history buff,” said with a laugh. “You’ve gotta do stuff like this every once in a while.”

While he was on the plane, he worried to himself about all of the stairs up to the Capitol Rotunda. But then he remembered: “Things have probably changed,” he said.

 Smith, who lives in Tooele, Utah, has attended many inaugurations — and taken his children to a few, he said — but has never seen a president lying in state. He decided the physical challenges would be well worth the “rare opportunity to witness history up close.”

“It’s a lot different now than it was 20 years ago,” Smith said after he arrived in the Capitol Visitor’s Center, referring to the accommodations built after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Now there’s practically nowhere I go where I’m without an elevator or without a plan.”

“It makes it so I can do things like this,” Smith said.

Smith was familiar with the act's importance when it was signed back in 1990, and, like Bush, encountered people every day through his job who were affected by it. Before taking disability leave, Smith worked in customer service for Delta Airlines for 31 years.

“I see it totally differently from this side,” Smith said. Bush, for whom the issue was already personal because his daughter Robin’s physical difficulties and, later, his son Neil’s learning disabilities, expressed the same sentiments once his battle with a form of Parkinson’s disease left him wheelchair bound.

“It changes everything you do,” said Smith, who used to ski in Utah three times a week before his accident. “But it doesn’t mean your life is over. I mean, here I am in Washington.”

Smith waited in line for about an hour before he got in an elevator up to see Bush’s casket. Soon after he entered the Rotunda to pay his respects, members of the military performed a slow, dignified changing of the guard.

Smith welled up, wiping tears from both eyes.

“It’s really emotional,” he said. “I was overcome.”

“There I was, standing five feet from it all,” he said, describing people around him from “all walks of life” who had stopped to take a minute and pay respects to the president — “how it’s supposed to be,” Smith said.

As he left, a U.S. Capitol Police officer pointed him to an elevator. Another asked if he’d had any trouble finding his way.

“I couldn’t do this if they didn’t have the accommodations,” Smith said as he got in line to sign a condolence book for the Bush family.

 Next to a note written by a woman who’d made the trip to D.C. from Florida, he thanked the late president for “the great example of what a good leader should be.”

“You ran the good race, you fought the good fight. Welcome home my faithful servant," Smith wrote. "You will be missed!”

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OneBlood.org(NEW YORK) -- The family of a 2-year-old girl battling an aggressive form of cancer is desperately searching for a rare blood type that will allow her to obtain the life-saving treatment she needs.

Zainab Mughal was diagnosed with neuroblastoma two months ago. But her family believes the tumor in her stomach had been growing for at least 10 months before that, her father, Raheel Mughal, said in a video published by OneBlood, the organization aiding the family's search for Zainab's blood supply.

Mughal said his daughter's diagnosis was "the worst thing" they could have expected, until doctors discovered another problem.

Zainab's red blood cells are missing a common antigen known as Indian-B, said Susan Forbes, vice president of marketing and communications for OneBlood. Because the antigen is so common, it makes it difficult to find blood donors who are lacking it as well, Forbes said.

The blood is even harder to find because the donors must have blood types "O" or "A" and be 100 percent of Indian, Iranian or Pakistani descent, Forbes said.

Less than four percent of the world's population has the blood type Zainab needs to undergo treatment, which includes frequent blood transfusions, Forbes said. None of Zainab's family have turned out to be matches, Mughal said.

So far, OneBlood has located three matches, including one in the United Kingdom near London, with the help of the American Rare Donor Program, Forbes said. All three have since sent units of blood to the Miami area, where the family lives, Forbes said.

Zainab will need up to seven more people to donate throughout the course of her treatment, according to the organization. And more than 1,000 people who are of Iranian, Indian or Pakistani descent have donated blood to be tested, Forbes said.

"We will definitely need more blood," Mughal said. "My daughter, she’s still a long way from being perfect."

While the blood won't cure Zainab's cancer, it will allow her to undergo two bone marrow transplants, which will make her stronger and allow doctors to give her higher doses of chemotherapy, Forbes said.

The toddler is already undergoing regular chemotherapy, which has helped the tumor shrink, but "she still has a long road ahead of her," Forbes said.

"My daughter's life very much depends on the blood," Mughal said, describing the plea for help as a "humble request" from his heart.

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iStock/cmannphoto(NEW YORK) --  The Food and Drug Administration is warning pet owners that several brands of dry dog food contain too much vitamin D, which can be toxic in high amounts, increasing their risk of kidney failure.

The FDA said that dog food sourced from a single manufacturer, but sold by multiple brands, contained "excessive, potentially toxic levels of vitamin D." Recalls have been initiated for impacted food from Nutrisca, Natural Life Pet Products, Sunshine Mills, Inc., Kroger brand, and ELM dog foods.

 "After receiving complaints from pet owners about dogs with vitamin D toxicity, one of the firms reported to the FDA that it was recalling dry pet food due to potentially toxic levels of vitamin D. Many other brands with a common contract manufacturer have also been recalled. The FDA is working with the contract manufacturer to provide a comprehensive list of affected brands," the FDA said in a press release.

An FDA spokeswoman said they can't disclose the name of the manufacturer because it is protected information.

One of the companies, Nutrisca, said on its website that it received complaints from three pet owners who said their dogs showed vitamin D toxicity and that the excess levels were due to a "formulation error."

Another brand, Sunshine Mills, said its impacted products were distributed in the U.S. as well as exported to Japan, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Israel, Canada and South Korea.

Dogs that consume too much vitamin D can show symptoms like vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst or weight loss, according to the FDA. Toxic levels can cause kidney failure or death.

The FDA recommends people contact their dog's veterinarian if their dogs have been eating food from the recalled brands or if they show any symptoms associated with vitamin D toxicity.

For specific information about the types of food impacted by recalls check the FDA's website at fda.gov.

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