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Fertility Doctor Claims He Cloned Embryos; Doctor Fighting to Get Care of His Community; Going to Mongolia to Help a Child's Autism; Are You Addicted to Facebook?

Aired April 25, 2009 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning. Welcome to HOUSE CALL, the show that helps you live stronger and longer. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks so much for watching.

A controversial fertility doctor claiming he cloned human embryos. Here's a question: would you do it? We've got the facts.

And, there's a doctor out there fighting to get care for his community. I'll tell you what -- it takes a village to get this done.

Plus, going to Mongolia to help their child's autism.

And finally, Facebook. Are you addicted?

Well, there's news this week that shocked the medical community. A doctor claiming he has cloned human beings and implanted those embryos into women. Now, his claim is coming in a documentary that aired on the Discovery Channel in Britain. It shows two couples attempting to clone deceased relatives.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take a look. Take a look.

DR. PANO ZAVOS, CLAIMED HAVING CLONED HUMAN BEINGS: The news is good. It couldn't get any better, actually.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my babies are doing well. They look beautiful.

ZAVOS: I think we asked three embryos that could be in uterus (ph) today. And that if the implantation is successful as well, and the pregnancy is maintained, then as we say in the U.S., we have a home run.


GUPTA: And that was Dr. Pano Zavos. Now, you know, we've actually covered him for a few years here on CNN. In 2004, he claimed to have cloned human embryos, but he was never able to provide any proof -- proof that we asked for. He says these pictures are proof that he has cloned human embryos, but we need to point out there's no way to tell, if any of what's happening there is real without any kind of outside verification. So, skepticism is warranted. And as you might imagine, scientists in the field of fertility are outrage about this, saying, what he has done or what he says he has done is totally unethical. And meanwhile, Dr. Zavos says none of the embryos that is implanted so far has led to a viable pregnancy, but he promises it's going to happen in the next year or two. We, of course, will keep following the story and bring you updates as they come to us.

Here's the story that I found very interesting and important. Researchers are one step closer to developing a pill to eliminate jet lag. Scientists have located two groups of neurons in the brain which essentially become out of sink, if you will, when traveling -- and that impacts the stages of sleep. I suffer from this all the time.

Now, when simulating time zones shift, then neurons which regulate deep sleep took only two days to bounce back, while the neurons impacting your REM sleep took much longer, up to six to eight days. A shortage of sleep, or a REM sleep in particular, causes many things: fatigue, disruption of memory, affects your mood as well. Researchers hope to create a pill to sort of re-sink all of this, re- sink the neurons in our brain, make it happen a lot faster, preventing delays or days of feeling off, if you will, after a trip.

Finally, it started with a trip to Mexico -- one doctor's vision to give care to those who needed it the most in his own community. It's turn into this wide ranging group of medical professionals all coming together, pitching in to make up for gaps in their local health care system.


DR. ROB RHODES, FOUNDER, CLINIC WITH A HEART: My name is Dr. Rob Rhodes. I'm a family physician here in Lincoln, Nebraska. I am president and founder of Clinic with a Heart, an organization that provides free medical, dental, chiropractic physical therapy, and most recently, we added optometry and behavioral medicine services.

We see people every Tuesday. And clinic patients are seen usually from about 5:30 at night until about 7:30 or 8:00 when we're all done.

JAMES STENIER (ph), PATIENT: My name is James Steiner. I'm here because I'm a chronic diabetic, insulin-dependent. I'm unemployed and can't afford my supplies.

RHODES: The economy has definitely affected the number of patients that we see here at Clinic with the Heart. Last year, for example, we saw 1,400 patients total, and this year, we'll be over 2,000 easily.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why I'm here to see the doctor, the dentist and vision, also, because I need -- I don't have any insurance.

DR. ROGER FISHER, DENTIST, CLINIC WITH A HEART: My name is Roger Fisher. The clinic started with two dentists and now we have over 26. We have oral surgeons that will take care of patients.

RHODES: We've got a relationship with our county medical society that refers patients into a rotation with the doctors in different specialties.

That way the physicians in the community feel like they maybe giving back to the indigents or the uninsured, but also in that rotation, they don't feel necessarily the burden that they are the only ones that are taking those patients. I have gone on a medical mission trip with my church and we went to Reynosa, Mexico.

We went in January of 2002 and saw just an incredible amount of people, on average, about 200 a day. And I thought, my gosh, if we can do that, there's got to be some way we can provide care to those patients back in Lincoln, Nebraska, in our backyard, that are falling between the cracks.

DR. NICOLE ANDERSON, VOLUNTEERS AT CLINIC: And you have how many vials of insulin do you have?

I am Nicole Anderson. I am a volunteer physician down here at Clinic with a Heart. I'm also the medical director. Patients that come down here can have three visits a year. And then we try to get them set up with a primary care physician here in Lincoln.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to go ahead and take it over to Wal-Mart and they're going to fill (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: The patients that we are seeing right now, typically, don't have any government assistance. Typically have either lost their jobs or are on medical leave for an issue and don't have insurance. And this is their only source of health care.

RHODES: You know, when I give talks about Clinic with a Heart and talk to other, you know, leaders that have helped started other free clinics around the country or even in the region, the one thing that we say is we'd love to be put out of business.


GUPTA: Tell you what -- there are a lot of lessons in there. And just a great job to all those volunteers as well.

Now, going to extremes to help a child, one family ends up in Mongolia. We're going to tell you why.

But first, there's some new research that brings us one step closer to understanding why some smokers get lung cancer and others don't. We hear about this all the time. HOUSE CALL is back in 60 seconds.


GUPTA: Were back on HOUSE CALL.

News this week that the FDA will be allowing 17-year-olds to get the morning-after pill without a prescription. Now, this is a response to a federal judge's order that came down last month. The Bush administration has set a limit of 18 years of age for access to the same emergency contraception pill.

And someday, a simple urine test might spot smokers at the highest risk for lung cancer. That's a mystery to some extent. You may have two smokers standing side by side, why does one person develop the deadly cancer, others do not?

You know, smoking is bad for you, we all know that, lots of different things happening in the body. But there's something else as well. And this is what scientists were sort of seizing on. This idea that if you smoke and you also can measure your level of this carcinogen, known as NNAL in the body, you are going to have the highest risk of developing lung cancer, 8.5 times increased risk as compared to someone who does not have this particular carcinogen.

Now, there's a lot of things that are going on here. But one of the things that makes the most sense is if they have this higher risk, they might actually get some screening tests to find lung cancer which might look like that. Early research, a lot more to be done.

HOUSE CALL is back in 60 seconds with one family's remarkable story going to the ends of the earth to help their child.


GUPTA: You are watching HOUSE CALL.

A child with autism's wild tantrums were driving his parents apart. All the while, little Rowan Isaacson is becoming unreachable as they described him. His parents feared that there was nothing they could do until their son met a horse named Betsy.

Take a look.


RUPERT ISAACSON, SON HAS AUTISM: When Rowan got up on Betsy with me, he began to talk to let me into his world. So we began to ride every day together and he began to talk more and more and I thought, you know, have I got it all wrong? This doesn't mean the end to everything. I mean, when the diagnosis first came, it was as if our entire world had shut down, but was I looking at it the wrong way around? Could this not be the gateway to adventure?


GUPTA: You know, this is a topic that we cover a lot on HOUSE CALL. We're going to stay on top of this topic. Rowan's father, Rupert Isaacson, joins us from our studios in New York. He's the author of the "Horse Boy," it's a book about his son, Rowan's autism. He's also produced the documentary about Rowan as well.

Rupert, welcome to HOUSE CALL.

ISAACSON: Thank you for having me.

GUPTA: Sure. You know, it's a topic that we have talked about a lot here on HOUSE CALL. One of the things at the end of that clip, you talked about this great adventure that you and your son were embarking on. What was the adventure?

ISAACSON: Well, the adventure. It seems a little mad, but we ended up going to Mongolia traveling on horseback from traditional healer to traditional healer, really consulting with them about his autism, and seeing what would happen.

GUPTA: You know, going back to when he first met Betsy. What happened specifically and what do you think was happening to him in his mind or in his overall emotional state?

ISAACSON: Well, it's a good question, because remember, you are very much from the outside looking in. So, I can only conjecture. But I used to train horses for a living.

And what Betsy did was she lowered her head to him in a very submissive gesture, which, as a horse trainer, you learn to recognize. I've never seen a horse spontaneously do this to humans before. And I realized that they had some kind of direct connection.

Initially, I came to the wrong conclusion and thought -- oh, he's got the horse gene. He's like me, but I never share it with him because of his autism. It turned out I was completely wrong.

GUPTA: You know, it's interesting. I have done a little bit of research on autism as well. And I know you've made this documentary film. Do you think that there is -- there is something about other animals as well or is it horses, in particular, or -- what did you learn?

ISAACSON: Well, a lot of kids on the autism spectrum seem to suffer from an overactive neurology. The nervous similar system is over-stimulated. And so, being in nature and around animals often seems to help them calm down. And when they have difficulty communicating, particularly verbally, it often seems that if you use the animal as an intermediary, it can help them then go on to communicate directly with humans.

But horses do seem to have a particular thing, and apparently some science has been done on this. Apparently, any repetitive rocking motion where you constantly have to find and refine your own balance opens up the learning receptors in the brain. And I recently found out also, apparently, it also causes the body to produce oxytocin, which is the feel-good hormone.

So, I think if you combine all those things together, plus, just how cool it is to be on the back of a horse ...

GUPTA: Right.

ISAACSON: ... you got a potent cocktail for a child to be intrinsically motivated learning environment. GUPTA: The idea that -- he still has autism, right? I mean ...

ISAACSON: Yes, he's still autistic.

GUPTA: His wild tantrums have diminished significantly?

ISAACSON: More than that. I mean, this is what I wasn't prepared for. Listen, it all happened when we went to Mongolia, is we've come back and said, hey, listen, he wasn't really that changed, but at least autism doesn't have to stop you from having an amazing adventure as a family like this. In the way, that would have been quite valid.

But the fact is, he came -- he went out there with these three terrible dysfunctions. He was incontinent, he tantrums all the time because of this over-stimulated neurology, and he was cut off from his peers. He came back three weeks later toilet-trained, no longer tantruming, and having made his best friend, (INAUDIBLE), who traveled with us and then came back to make a whole circle of friends when we got home.


ISAACSON: So, it's almost like now his autism is more like a quirk, a charming quirk than the sort of severe dysfunction that it was before.

GUPTA: Well, I wish him the best of luck and I wish you the best of luck as well. I'm looking forward to watching the documentary.

ISAACSON: Well, thank you.

GUPTA: And I hope -- I hope this is beneficial to a lot of families out there. Rupert, thanks so much.

ISAACSON: Thank you. It's been a great honor.

GUPTA: Absolutely.

And we talked to some specialists who say that horse riding can be effective in gaining access to children with autism. They call it hippotherapy. And it's a medical treatment that uses horses and is supervised by a licensed speech-language pathologist. Now, specifically, it's been shown to increase verbal communication skills in some children and as long as 18 to 25 minutes of riding once week for eight week. So, that maybe some benefits here.

Well, we celebrated Earth Day this week. More reasons to watch your weight. It turns out that it's good for the environment. Some new research shows that thin people have a smaller carbon footprint than overweight people. Stay with us here.

Scientists in London found two main reasons. First of all, by eating more, additional food is produced and that causes more harmful gases in the production process. Also, the transportation of heavier people takes added fuel which creates more greenhouse gas emissions as well.

Now, we also did an unscientific comparison of the CDC state-by- state BMI numbers, body mass index numbers, and the American Lung Association's least polluted cities. Interestingly enough, four of the top 10 states with the lowest numbers of overweight and obese also have cities listed as the least polluted in the United States.

A coincidence? I don't know. I'll let you decide that one.

Now, here's a question. Are you Facebook'd out? I get kind of Facebook'd out. Discover why therapists are saying social networking might get you in pretty big trouble.

And dancing, it can be a great workout, but some contestants on this popular show are getting really beaten up. Find out why.

And why some fat is good. Fat can even make you thin. I'll explain. We got the details.

Stay with HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL.

There's no question it's a great way to stay in touch with family and friends. But for some people, Facebook can become a real problem. So, how do you know when you maybe cross the line? Well, CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins us with this week's "Empowered Patient."

So, you've been investigating -- I heard you heard some pretty interesting stories.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we definitely heard interesting stories from people who admit that they are Facebook addicts. For example, I talked to one woman. She's a single woman. She's 51. She went on Facebook and she said she found herself just sort of losing herself in the Facebook world, as she put it. Her daughter wanted help with homework and she said, "Oh, not now, honey, I'm busy." The daughter went upstairs and e-mailed her and said, "Mom, I really need you." She never got the e-mail because, well, she was on Facebook.

And so, of course, most people use Facebook just fine. And the psychologists we talked to say Facebook is not the problem, it's that some people have a hard time stopping.

GUPTA: The daughter needs her to become her Facebook friend.

COHEN: That's -- yes, that's what I suggest with that, to the mother, right.

GUPTA: But are there some ways that you can know if you're sort of falling into this pattern of being an addict?

COHEN: Right. Here's how you know if Facebook has crossed the line for you from being a fun thing to being a compulsion.

So, here -- number five of the top five reasons. Number five: you lose sleep over Facebook. Literally, you're Facebooking into the night and you're tired the next day. That's not good.

If you spend more than an hour a day on Facebook, the psychologists we talked to said there's no hard and fast number, but really, do you need more than an hour a day on Facebook? It's a good question.

Three, you become obsessed with old loves. This is apparently quite a popular activity on Facebook --if that old boyfriend or girlfriend from high school or college starts looking better than your current spouse ...


COHEN: ... you're sort of getting too into the Facebook world. Everyone looks good on Facebook, right? I mean, everyone -- no one looks bad.

GUPTA: It sounds like that may be indicative of more than just an addiction to Facebook problem.

COHEN: A marital problem perhaps.

GUPTA: That's right.

COHEN: Number two, you ignore work. Now, everyone -- except for you and me, I'm sure -- you know, goes on the Internet and does fun stuff when they should be working. But if you're really ignoring your work over and over again because you're updating your Facebook status, that's a problem.

And the number one clue that you might be addicted to Facebook is if the thought of getting off of it puts you in a cold sweat. Sanjay, I asked this woman, "Have you tried getting off of it?" And she said, "I can stay off Facebook for a day but not for the whole weekend."

GUPTA: Wow. That's interesting.

COHEN: She's never made it a weekend.

GUPTA: And I was into it for a while, and now, I sort of got off of it. You and I both have Twitter accounts as well ...

COHEN: Right.

GUPTA: ... which I think is actually nice, because it's just 140 characters. So, you can't type too much and the ...

COHEN: Right, exactly. It's like a connection but not too much of a connection, yes.

GUPTA: That's right. And thanks for doing that, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

GUPTA: Thanks as always.

And be sure to read the rest of Elizabeth's tips on getting (ph) out if social networking is becoming a problem -- maybe for you. Visit the Web site:

Now, I don't know how tough "Dancing with the Stars" routine really are on the contestants bodies. The show wanted to know, and we answer some questions for them. And did you know some fat can actually help you lose weight? Probably one of the best stories of the show -- fat helping you lose weight. I'll show you why color seems to be the key.

Stay with HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: Every week, millions of Americans watch the hit show "Dancing with the Stars," and they've been seeing a lot of injuries during the season. So, this week, the show asked me to talk about dancing's impact on the body and what this type of dancing really does to contestants' bodies.

Take a listen.


GUPTA: Dancers are athletes. There's no question it has a physical impact. It looks pretty graceful when you watch it, but they're doing something that's very unusual for exercise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can feel it getting a little sore right here.

GUPTA: One of the biggest differences between ballroom dancing and just about any other form is activity is the constant working out of the core muscles. When you're dancing like this, you're increasing blood flow to the various organs, you're modulating your blood pressure. Here you're engaging, all of a sudden, a different muscle, followed by a completely different muscle. And that's doing things to your body that most bodies don't do on a regular basis.


GUPTA: And dancing is a great way to get moving and have fun at the same time -- one of the messages we preach here at HOUSE CALL. In fact, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute endorses ballroom dancing as a way to risk coronary artery disease, control blood pressure, reduce weight and boost HDL cholesterol, that the good cholesterol. You want that.

Now, what if some fat could actually help you lose weight. Fat helping you lose weight, too good to be true? Not necessarily. New research shows not all fat is the same.

Most of us carry too much fat. That's part of the problem. That's what we talk a lot about at the Unfit Nation.

But there are different types of fat. For example, this is something known as white fat. This is the bad fat. This is the kind of fat that just stores calories.

It does hardly anything for you. Doesn't help you burn calories at all. White fat -- you don't want as much of that.

Over here, you have something known as brown fat. Take a look there. Nothing really impressive to see here but this is the sort of fat that is stored right around here, underneath your collarbones and your upper chest. This is metabolically active fat, just a few ounces of stuff and you're burning calories even sitting at rest. So, you want more of this brown fat, less of this white fat. That's the message for a lot of people, fat actually helping you lose weight.

Now, you've heard about postpartum depression. But would you know the signs if you saw it? Next, we're going to tackle that question in Ask the Doctor.


GUPTA: Time for "Ask the Doctor."

Let's jump right in with a question from Erin in North Dakota. She writes this, "I'm the mother of a 1-year-old. Could you please address how to recognize postpartum depression?"

Well, this is an issue close to my heart. I have three children including a 5-week-old now. I'll tell you, postpartum depression can begin anytime within the first year after childbirth. That's the first lesson.

It's different than the baby blues which is quite common. You feel a little sad right after giving birth. That typically last about a week. Postpartum depression is much more severe, lasts longer, and sometimes needs medical attention as well.

Your question was about signs. So here are some signs for your husband and anyone else to look for: feeling tired all the time. That may be one sign. Not bonding with your baby -- an important clue there. Severe mood swings, not something that's typical. Unable to face day-to-day activities -- some women may feel anti-social and other women may think that lots of people are ganging up on them, and they may, perhaps, be misinterpreting things that are said about them or around them.

Now, if you're experiencing any of those types of symptoms, do consult your doctor. This could be a significant issue, something you should pay attention to. Good luck.

Unfortunately, that's all the time we have for today. If you miss any part of today's show, be sure to check out my podcast,

And always remember, this is the place for the answers to all of your medical answers. We're here for you. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

More news on CNN starts right now.