Tag: caucasians

Bioethics Blogs

Virtual Reality and Implicit Bias: New Work from SPINS

The Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society

Fall 2016 has been quite the whirlwind for national politics and the media, with a seemingly endless flow of eye-catching headlines and breaking news stories. Amidst this frenzy, one news item in particular caught our attention here at the Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society (SPINS): the emergence of “implicit bias” as a mainstream discussion point. While this term has been used among scholars for decades, and has recently made its way into popular journalism sources, on September 26th, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressly uttered the phrase “implicit bias” in a nationally televised debate. Even more on point (for our purposes), star Golden State Warriors player, Andre Iguodala, was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, saying that he hoped virtual reality could soon be used to reduce racial bias.

And that is exactly what we hope too. This summer, SPINS funded a study, led by Natalie Salmanowitz (former SPINS fellow, and current student at Harvard Law School), which examined the impact of virtual reality on implicit bias reduction and evaluations of mock crime scenarios. While the study is currently in the peer-review process, we wanted to give you a teaser and explain the basic gist of the project.

Implicit biases often stem from ingrained and subconscious stereotypes that separate ingroups from outgroups—for example, Caucasians frequently view African-Americans as inherently different from themselves, invoking subtle threat responses that ultimately encourage biased behaviors. These self-other distinctions are exactly what we sought to target with the virtual reality exercise. In the experiment, Natalie asked Caucasian participants to enter a virtual world in which they embodied an African-American avatar.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

National Kidney Month

The California Legislature passed a resolution proclaiming March as National Kidney Month.  

WHEREAS, The Month of March is National Kidney Month, and March 10, 2016, is World Kidney Day; and

WHEREAS, Approximately 50 years ago, kidney failure was a death sentence; and

WHEREAS, In 1972, the United States Congress developed the Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) program. In doing so, Congress ensured that regardless of age or income, any American would have access to life-saving dialysis care; and

WHEREAS, One in 10 adults in the United States are living with kidney disease; the leading causes are diabetes, high blood pressure, and a family history of chronic kidney disease (CKD); and

WHEREAS, Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States. Once diagnosed, an individual with kidney failure must either get a kidney transplant or receive dialysis treatment at least three times per week, for three to four hours per treatment, to live; and
   
WHEREAS, CKD is a progressive disease that may lead to premature death or kidney failure; and
   
WHEREAS, More than 26 million Americans have CKD, but most are unaware that they have it, and another 73 million are at risk. Many of them only discover that they have kidney failure, also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD), when they “crash” in a hospital emergency room after fainting or suffering from extreme dizziness; and

WHEREAS, Nearly 616,000 Americans have ESRD, and more than 430,000 rely on life-sustaining dialysis; and

WHEREAS, The only treatment options for kidney failure are a kidney transplant or dialysis; and
   
WHEREAS, More than 95,000 individuals are waiting for kidney transplants; and 

WHEREAS, Since 2000, the number of patients who have been diagnosed with kidney failure has increased by 57 percent; and
   
WHEREAS, According to statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three people with diabetes has kidney disease; one in five adults with high blood pressure has chronic kidney disease; African Americans are about three and a half times more likely to develop kidney failure than Caucasians; Latinos are one and a half times more likely to develop kidney failure than non-Latinos; and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans are twice as likely to develop kidney failure as Caucasians; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, the Senate thereof concurring, That the Legislature proclaims the month of March 2016, and each year thereafter, as National Kidney Month in California; and be it further
   
Resolved, That the Legislature supports programs to increase awareness of kidney disease, work to educate Californians about healthy eating and drinking habits, and encourage individuals to seek early screening and treatment of diabetes and high blood pressure; and be it further

Resolved, That the Legislature encourages health care providers, as they detect and treat diabetes and high blood pressure, to engage in an aggressive program with their patients that includes a treatment regimen that meets and exceeds minimum treatment guidelines; and be it further
  
Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of the resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

At Long Last: FDA Changes the Law for Hemochromatosis

by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

Summer in the U.S. is known for many things—time at the beach, picnics, baseball, thunderstorms, vacations and ice cream. Sadly, it is also known by hospitals as the season when blood is in short supply. Schools and businesses close making blood drives harder. Frequent donors go away leaving blood and blood products in their communities in short supply. That is why a recent hard-fought breakthrough as to who can donate blood deserves much more attention and recognition than it has received which, if Google is to be believed, to date has been exactly nothing.

Hemochromatosis is a genetic disease that causes the human body to absorb too much iron from food. The excess iron can damage vital organs like the heart and the liver. The disease is more common in Caucasians and in men. The solution to these problems—get rid of excess iron by frequent bleeding. Hemochromatosis is the one disease that justifies all the horrific blood letting engaged in by medicine over the centuries. Giving blood gets rid of the iron.

So you might think if some people need blood and some people have to frequently get rid of a lot of iron-rich blood frequently then why don’t they use blood from those with hemochromatosis? Very good question. Why has it taken so long? Partly because hemochromatosis is a disease and that led to confusion about the safety of blood from affected people. There is no safety issue. The FDA has, after 8 years of fighting, asking, hoping and lobbying, issued a rule that recognizes exactly that.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Snapshots of Life: Portrait of Skin Cancer

Squamous cell carcinoma

Caption: This image shows the uncontrolled growth of cells in squamous cell carcinoma.
Credit: Markus Schober and Elaine Fuchs, The Rockefeller University, New York

For Markus Schober, science is more inspiring when the images are beautiful, even when the subject is not. So, when this biologist was at The Rockefeller University in New York and peered through his microscope at squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), both the diabolical complexity—and the beauty—of this common form of skin cancer caught his eye.

Schober wasn’t the only one who found the image compelling. A panel of judges from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the American Society for Cell Biology chose to feature it in their Life: Magnified exhibit, which recently opened at the Washington Dulles International Airport.

As gorgeous as the micrograph may be, it has meaning beyond its artistic merit. It illustrates in vivid detail the biomedical puzzle that Schober, now an NIH-funded researcher at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, is trying to crack: is there any way to turn SCC—the second most common form of skin cancer among Caucasians—from a potentially fatal disease into a harmless condition? [1]

So, let’s take a closer look at this sample of tumor tissue from a mouse. Actively dividing skin cancer cells (red) are seen invading healthy tissue as they grow. As these malignant cells spread, they leave other skin cells (green) in their wake [2]. The blue dots in the image are nuclei of all cell types—the cells that are neither red nor green are blood vessels, fibroblasts, immune cells, and other cells that make up the “stroma” of the skin.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Creative Minds: Engineering Targeted Breast Cancer Treatments

Photo of Debra Auguste

Debra Auguste

A few years ago, Debra Auguste, a chemical engineer then at Harvard University, was examining the statistics on breast cancer: the second most common cancer in women in the U.S. after lung cancer. She was disturbed to discover that of all the ethnic groups, African American women with breast cancer suffered the highest mortality rates—with 30.8% dying from the disease [1-3].

As an African American woman, Auguste was stunned by this correlation. She wondered whether there was some genetic aspect of breast cancer cells in African Americans that made these cancers more aggressive and more difficult to cure.

To explore the issue, she decided to identify, and map, the arrangement of proteins on the surface of metastatic breast cancer cells from four different groups: African Americans, Caucasians, women under 40, and women over 40. Auguste, now at the City College of New York, believes that if she can identify signature constellations of cell surface proteins, she’ll be able to draw on her engineering background to design drug delivery vehicles that recognize two or more signature proteins and deliver drugs that prevent these cancers from spreading to other organs (called metastasis). We’ve awarded her a 2012 New Innovator Award to test her strategy.

Before I tell you more about Auguste’s approach, let me backtrack to explain that, when it comes to breast cancer, there are already several personalized therapies. One way to classify breast cancers is by the presence or absence of certain proteins on the surface of the cell. Breast cancer cells that are estrogen positive—carrying the estrogen receptor on the surface—grow and proliferate when exposed to the hormone estrogen. Others are progesterone positive; these carry the progesterone receptor and grow and multiply in response to the hormone progesterone. Then, there are cancers that produce too much of the protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). These HER2

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

(en)Gendering psychiatric disease: what does sex/gender have to do with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Mallory Bowers is a 5th year Neuroscience doctoral candidate working with Dr. Kerry Ressler at Emory University. Prior to graduate school, Mallory received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania. Mallory is interested in behavioral neuroscience, with a particular focus on how neural plasticity contributes to learning. With Dr. Ressler, Mallory is using a mouse model of exposure-based psychotherapy to better understand the neurobiology of learned fear. Specifically, her research focuses on a potential interaction between the cholecystokinin and endogenous cannabinoid systems that may underlie extinction of cued fear. Mallory was on the organizing committee for the 2013 “Bias in the Academy” Conference and is President of Emory Women in Neuroscience (E-WIN).

As I’ve become more entrenched in the PTSD field, I’ve been struck by the prominent sex/gender difference in the prevalence of PTSD (among many other psychiatric disorders) and the categorical use of male animal models. As researchers begin to explore sex differences in animal models of stress, anxiety, and fear, evidence suggests that male animals are more vulnerable to acute and chronic stress, while females appear to be more resilient (Cohen and Yehuda 2011). The results of these animal studies contradict the human epidemiological data, with lifetime prevalence of PTSD at 10-14% in women and 5-6% in men in the United States (Breslau, Davis, et al. 1991, Breslau, Davis, et al. 1997, Kessler, Sonnega, et al. 1995, Resnick, Kilpatrick, et al. 1993). In this post, I’d like to explore the ways in which socio-cultural conditioning genders an individual’s sense of self, influences definitions and language surrounding mental health, and supports frameworks of gender bias (a putative low-grade, chronic stressor) – potentially contributing to sex/gender differences observed in the prevalence of certain psychiatric disorders, specifically PTSD.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.