Shape the Future of Medicine: Cast Your Vote

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 13, 2015

Two compelling competitions to advance medical innovation the BRIght Futures Prize and Stepping Strong Innovator Awards – are currently under way at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and you can help determine the winner.

BRIght Futures Prize

The BRIght Futures Prize supports BWH investigators as they work to answer provocative questions or solve vexing problems in medicine. This year’s BRIght Futures Prize finalists – Christopher Fanta, MD, from the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in the BWH Lung Center; Wilfred Ngwa, PhD, from the Department of Radiation Oncology; and William Savage MD, PhD, from the Department of Pathology  are pursuing forward-thinking and inventive research to improve patient care. Each of the three finalists hopes to receive the $100,000 BRIght Futures Prize, which will be awarded at Discover Brigham on Oct. 7, 2015. Discover Brigham, highlights the cutting-edge biomedical investigations of more than 3,000 researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

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Avoiding Burn Injuries from Sparklers

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 30, 2015

Sparklers can burn at up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, potentially causing serious burns.

On the 4th of July, Marissa Keane, a former Project Manager in the Marketing Department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), was looking forward to relaxing with friends and family at a celebration in a nearby state. Instead, her evening ended with second-degree burns and a visit to an urgent care center.

During the festivities, someone standing near Marissa began waving a sparkler. The motion cast off a spark onto Marissa’s clothing, which were made of flammable material. Fortunately, Marissa noticed what happened before her blouse completely ignited. Still, she suffered a serious burn on her chest that required medical treatment.

Marissa’s experience is an important reminder about the dangers of sparklers, an iconic symbol of July 4th celebrations. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks-related injuries result in an average of 240 daily visits to the emergency room in the thirty days surrounding the July 4th holiday. Nearly one-third of these injuries are due to sparklers. That’s not surprising when you consider that sparklers can burn at up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fireworks are banned in Massachusetts, though you may be traveling to a state where sparklers and other fireworks are allowed. Dr. Raghu Seethala, Associate Director of Trauma in the Emergency Department at BWH, offers these tips to avoid injuries from sparklers or fireworks:

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Double Arm Transplant Recipient Gives Thanks

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 25, 2014

Double arm transplant recipient Will Lautzenheiser demonstrates what he can do with his new arms.

Befitting the spirit of this week’s holiday, today’s story exemplifies both gratitude and giving.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) announced at a press conference today that Will Lautzenheiser, 40, a former professor of film production and screenwriting at Boston University and Montana State University, is the recipient of a bilateral (double) arm transplant. Last month, a team of 35 clinicians, including 13 surgeons, worked for nearly nine hours to transplant a donor’s arms – above the elbow on his left side and below the elbow on his right side. The team precisely joined bones, arteries, muscles, tendons, veins, and nerves of the donor’s arms together with Will’s.

Will became a quadruple amputee in 2011when doctors in Montana removed his limbs to save his life, which was in jeopardy due to necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease), a life-threatening Group A streptococcal infection. Since that time, Will has struggled to manage with prosthetic (artificial) limbs. With his transplanted arms, however, Will expects to be able to perform everyday tasks quicker and without the aid of others, and to gradually regain his sense of touch.

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Innovations in Organ and Tissue Transplantation

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 9, 2014

The face transplantation team worked for more than 20 hours to restore the face of Charla Nash.

In 2013, nearly 29,000 people received a second chance at life through the generosity of organ and tissue donors. Organ transplantation was made possible due to the pioneering work of Joseph E. Murray, MD, who performed the first successful human organ transplant in 1954 at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, which later became Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

Dr. Murray received a Nobel Prize in 1990, in recognition of his contributions to the field of organ transplantation, including the development of immunosuppressive therapy to reduce organ rejection. Since that time, transplant specialists at BWH have achieved more firsts in organ transplantation in New England, including multiple organ transplants on the same day from an individual donor and multiple transplants on the same day from multiple donors.

Recently, BWH physicians achieved another transplant milestone by completing composite tissue allograft transplantation. This procedure allows surgeons to take something as complex as a face or arm and transplant it. In 2009, surgeons at BWH performed the first full face transplant in the U.S.

In this video, Michael J. Zinner, MD, Chairman, Department of Surgery, and Bohdan Pomahac, MD, Director, Center for Facial Restoration and Director, Burn Center, discuss transplant innovations at BWH over the past 60 years and the future of organ and tissue transplantation.

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Double Arm Transplant Candidate Hoping for Independence

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 16, 2014

Will Lautzenheiser has been approved as a candidate for a bilateral (double) arm transplant.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) announced at a recent press conference that Will Lautzenheiser, 39, a former professor of film production and screenwriting at Boston University and Montana State University, has been approved as a candidate for a bilateral (double) arm transplant.

Will became a quadruple amputee in 2011, when doctors in Montana removed his limbs due to necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease), a life-threatening Group A streptococcal infection. Since that time, Will has struggled to manage with prosthetic (artificial) limbs.

“After losing my limbs, I haven’t been able to do anything spontaneously,” said Will. “It might take me 20 minutes to get dressed using prostheses.” He added that often “other people have to be my hands.”

A successful arm transplant, however, has the potential to significantly restore a patient’s self-reliance. “What we are hoping to provide is independence, something that no prosthesis really can achieve at the present time,” explained Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, Director of the BWH Plastic Surgery Transplantation Program.

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Face Transplants – New Key to Managing Rejection?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 5, 2014

This image of a rejection episode demonstrates significant activity by donor immune cells (red) and recipient immune cells (green).

Physicians and researchers commonly have believed that the key to ensuring the long-term success of a face transplant is to prevent the recipient’s T cells (immune cells) from attacking T cells in the donated tissue. Recent Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) research, however, has shown that donor T cells transferred as part of the face transplant may attack recipient T cells and, thus, also contribute significantly to rejection episodes – not just the other way around.

The BWH Restorative Surgery team, led by Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, has had great success in pioneering face transplantation, but they also acknowledge that there is much to learn. Determining how a recipient accepts or rejects a donated face and how to address rejection episodes are considered to be among their most important challenges.

Following a face transplant, or any type of human organ/tissue transplant, T cells from the recipient mount an immune response to the donated tissue, threatening its survival. Thus far, rejection episodes following face transplants at BWH have been controlled successfully through immunosuppression medication, enabling all our recipients to maintain acceptance of their transplanted face.

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Determining the Course of Medical Research – Final Nominee

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 18, 2013

Today’s video and Q&A features our third and last finalist in the 2013 Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) BRIght Futures Prize competition, a research project from Bohdan Pomahac, MD, and Jeffrey Karp, PhD.

Stuck on You (Video)

Bohdan Pomahac, MD, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Jeffrey Karp, PhD, Division of Biomedical Engineering

What is your research project about?

There have been few recent medical innovations to seal tissues and prevent leaks after surgery. Physicians still use sutures, which are very time-consuming and difficult to place, as well as staples, which can cause tissue damage when inserted and removed. This can result in infection or extreme pain for patients.

Imagine an adhesive that could easily attach to tissue to rapidly seal wounds and connect tissues without severe damage. Suppose this adhesive could also deliver drugs to wounds to prevent infection or speed the process of healing and tissue regeneration. It could provide a completely new way for doctors to treat damaged tissue, including severely burned skin.

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2013 BRIght Futures Prize: Promoting Innovative Medical Research

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 15, 2013

Dr. Robert C. Green, winner of the first BRIght Futures Prize.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) is routinely recognized as one of the top academic medical centers in the country. Last year, the BWH Biomedical Research Institute launched the annual $100,000 BRIght Futures Prize competition to support innovative research that is both compelling and promising to an audience that extends beyond just scientists. The competition is intended to generate excitement and motivation within the research community, while heightening the visibility of BWH research worldwide. It supports researchers as they work to answer provocative questions and better meet today’s medical needs.

The three finalists were selected through a rigorous two-step peer review process, and the winner will be determined by public voting. The public is encouraged to vote for their favorite research project by visiting The winner will be announced during the awards ceremonies at the 2nd annual BWH Research Day on November 21. This event has the same goal of raising awareness and celebrating research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Registration is open not only to internal employees, but any individuals interested in learning more about the comprehensive science that goes on at the institution every day. Patients, local scientists, health care professionals, and industry collaborators all come together to interact with and learn more from BWH investigators and clinicians. Topics of focus this year include technology and innovation, personalized medicine, neuro-degeneration, and allergies, among others.

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Transplantation: A History and Future of Firsts

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 27, 2013

Many transplant milestones have taken place at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, including the world’s first successful human organ transplant, a kidney transplanted from one identical twin to another, in 1954. Since this groundbreaking start, our transplant programs have continued to build upon this innovative spirit. View the following infographic to learn more about our history of transplant innovation.
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Face Transplant Recipient Focuses on Her Gifts

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 2, 2013

Face transplant recipient Carmen Blandin Tarleton embraces her donor's daughter, Marinda Righter.

Recent events have made us grimly aware of the intense suffering that just a few people can cause. But in the wake of such tragedies, we also have seen the other side – the eagerness of neighbors, friends, and strangers to help as best they can.

Carmen Blandin Tarleton, a 44-year-old registered nurse and mother of two from Thetford, Vermont, has experienced both extremes first hand, but her heart is now focused on what she has been given, not what has been taken away.

On June 10, 2007, Carmen’s estranged husband doused her with industrial-strength lye and beat her. Over 80 percent of Carmen’s body was severely burned. Despite the subsequent efforts of 55 surgeries over five years, including 38 during a three-month period immediately after the attack, Carmen remained in pain, severely disfigured, and legally blind. She also suffered from uncontrolled drooling and an inability to rotate her neck.

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