The Week That Wasn't: Keto Pitfalls, Healing Hearing Loss, Lab-Grown Heart Transplant

Ellie Kincaid


January 31, 2020

You may have recently seen articles about the long-term negative effects of a ketogenic diet, a new medicine that could reverse hearing loss, and the first transplant of lab-grown heart tissue. Here's why you didn't see them on Medscape Medical News.

Keto's Expiration Date

Eating a ketogenic diet high in fat with minimal carbohydrates burns fat and restrains inflammation at first, but in the long term, it causes weight gain and impairs metabolic health, researchers studying mice report in the journal Nature Metabolism. The researchers found that when the mice first started on the ketogenic diet, their metabolically protective gamma delta T cells proliferated, but over time on the diet, they lost those cells. Without those protective immune cells, mice "have impaired glucose homeostasis," the authors write.

Given the limited long-term research on the ketogenic diet's effects in people, it's tempting to take the results of this study in mice and run with them. But because our clinician readers are treating human patients, not mice, we didn't cover this research, which doesn't have clear cross-species relevance.

Hearing Loss Medicine

Combining the hormone aldosterone with an anti-inflammatory medication can slow hearing loss, according to a news report that cited the work of Robert D. Frisina, PhD, director of biomedical engineering at the University of South Florida's College of Engineering. "In a sense, we're making the ear younger because we're giving this critical hormone," Frisina said in the report. "It could be for everyone because we're all going to lose our hearing as we get older."

Frisina envisions this treatment working best as a patch rather than a pill, but neither seems to have been tested in patients yet. His patent application cites in vitro and mouse experiments, and a clinical trial of aldosterone to treat hearing loss does not appear to be listed in the online repository Without evidence of how well Frisina's idea might work in the clinic, we didn't see anything in this story that would be relevant for our readers.

Lab-Grown Heart Tissue Transplant

In an apparent world first, a team of scientists at Osaka University in Japan transplanted cardiac muscle cell sheets grown from induced pluripotent stem cells into a patient with ischemic cardiomyopathy, the researchers announced at a news conference. The transplant is part of a clinical trial the investigators hope will enroll 10 patients in 3 years. "I hope that [the transplant] will become a medical technology that will save as many people as possible, as I've seen many lives that I couldn't save," cardiovascular surgeon Yoshiki Sawa said.

Given the shortage of donor hearts available for transplant for patients who need them, developing alternative treatments is an admirable goal, and using lab-grown stem cells sounds intriguingly high tech. But an experimental surgery that has been performed in one person is not generally something clinicians can offer their patients, especially when the treatment and its outcome have not been described and evaluated in a peer-reviewed medical journal. We didn't think our readers needed to know about this procedure quite yet.

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