Tag: molecular biology

Bioethics Blogs

Gender Bias in the Sciences: A Neuroethical Priority

By Lindsey Grubbs
Lindsey Grubbs is a doctoral candidate in English at Emory University, where she is also pursuing a certificate in bioethics. Her work has been published in Literature & Medicine and the American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience, and she has a chapter co-authored with Karen Rommelfanger forthcoming in the Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics.   
In a March 29, 2017 lecture at Emory University, Dr. Bita Moghaddam, Chair of the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University, began her talk, “Women’s Reality in Academic Science,” by asking the room of around fifty undergraduate and graduate students, “Who’s not here today?”
The answer? Men. (Mostly. To be fair, there were two.) Women in the audience offered a few hypotheses: maybe men felt like they would be judged for coming to a “women’s” event; maybe they wanted the women in their community to enjoy a female-majority space; maybe they don’t think that gender impacts their education and career.
Moghaddam seemed inclined to favor this third view: anecdotally, she has noticed a marked lack of interest from younger men when it comes to discussing gender bias in the sciences. More interested, she suggested, are older men who run laboratories or departments and watch wave after wave of talented women leave the profession, and those who have seen their partners or children impacted by sexism in science.
Dr. Moghaddam was invited to speak in Atlanta for her work against the systemic bias facing women in the sciences. She co-authored a short piece in Neuropsychopharmacology titled “Women at the Podium: ACNP Strives to Reach Speaker Gender Equality at the Annual Meeting.”

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

H3Africa: Fostering Collaboration

Caption: Pioneers in building Africa’s genomic research capacity; front, Charlotte Osafo (l) and Yemi Raji; back, David Burke (l) and Tom Glover.
Credit: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

About a year ago, Tom Glover began sifting through a stack of applications from prospective students hoping to be admitted into the Master’s Degree Program in Human Genetics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Glover, the program’s director, got about halfway through the stack when he noticed applications from two physicians in West Africa: Charlotte Osafo from Ghana, and Yemi Raji from Nigeria. Both were kidney specialists in their 40s, and neither had formal training in genomics or molecular biology, which are normally requirements for entry into the program.

Glover’s first instinct was to disregard the applications. But he noticed the doctors were affiliated with the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) Initiative, which is co-supported by the Wellcome Trust and the National Institutes of Health Common Fund, and aims in part to build the expertise to carry out genomics research across the continent of Africa. (I am proud to have had a personal hand in the initial steps that led to the founding of H3Africa.) Glover held onto the two applications and, after much internal discussion, Osafo and Raji were admitted to the Master’s Program. But there were important stipulations: they had to arrive early to undergo “boot camp” in genomics and molecular biology and also extend their coursework over an extra term.

Both agreed and were soon put through the paces of performing basic lab techniques, hearing about the latest in DNA sequencing, learning the basics of designing genomic studies, and immersing themselves in their courses.

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

From My Students Most of All

By Zev Leifer

The Talmud (Taanis 7a) quotes Rabbi Chanina who declared that, “I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues and most from students.”  There is a tendency amongst educators, in general and more so, I suspect, amongst medical educators (given their many years of training and vast experience) to take a top-down approach.  This approach assumes that we have a contractual relationship wherein “I have the knowledge and we are here so that I can share it with you”.

In contrast, the digital age has humbled many of “our” generation since the best advice when faced with a new piece of digital equipment or software, is to “ask a ten-year old” (even an anonymous ten-year old).  But our students?!  I submit that example is a challenge – to ego and to the “Central Dogma of Education” that information flow is unidirectional.

I would like to share some of my experiences teaching digital pathology, to perhaps update that notion…

For the past 35 years I have been teaching Pathology Lab at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine.  For most of that time, the classical techniques of diagnostic pathology – analyzing a glass slide of a tissue slice to determine if normal or pathological, or pathological to what extent – has been by looking at the slide in a microscope.  Now the world has changed.  For the professional pathologist and, by extension, for the aspiring pathology student, it is all digital.  The slide is digitized and, with appropriate software, made available on the computer which acts as microscope.

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

The significance of 37

January 30, 2017

The significance of 37

Ana Krivokuca,

MSc in Molecular Biology, PhD in Genetics

Masters in Bioethics, Clarkson University &Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (exp. June 2017)

It’s a boy! Such a familiar statement but with somewhat peculiar and mysterious echo on the morning of 29th September, 2016. While drinking my first coffee of the day, I am wondering what is so unique about this boy to put him in the headlines of CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian and every other -post or -times that exist around the world . Aha! ˝World’s first baby born with new ‘three parent’ technique. Ok, this requires a larger cup of coffee….

Even though many believe that all of our genes reside in the nuclei of our cells, it’s more complicated than that. A small part of human genome (only 37 genes compared to an estimated 20,000-25,000 genes in the whole genome) is situated outside the nucleus, in the “energy factories” of the cells called mitochondria. Mutations in one of these 37 genes might cause mitochondria failure, cell damage, and even cell death. Mitochondrial diseases are usually progressive; they manifest differently and affect those parts of the body that have highest energy demands: brain, muscles or heart. These tiny pieces of DNA are inherited only from our mothers. So, each of us inherited these 37 genes from our mother, who inherited them from hers, and so on and so forth through generations.

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

The significance of 37 January 30, 2017 Mitochondrial gene transfer (MGT) is a new technique…

January 30, 2017

The significance of 37

Ana Krivokuca,

MSc in Molecular Biology, PhD in Genetics

Masters in Bioethics, Clarkson University &Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (exp. June 2017)

It’s a boy! Such a familiar statement but with somewhat peculiar and mysterious echo on the morning of 29th September, 2016. While drinking my first coffee of the day, I am wondering what is so unique about this boy to put him in the headlines of CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian and every other -post or -times that exist around the world . Aha! ˝World’s first baby born with new ‘three parent’ technique. Ok, this requires a larger cup of coffee….

Even though many believe that all of our genes reside in the nuclei of our cells, it’s more complicated than that. A small part of human genome (only 37 genes compared to an estimated 20,000-25,000 genes in the whole genome) is situated outside the nucleus, in the “energy factories” of the cells called mitochondria. Mutations in one of these 37 genes might cause mitochondria failure, cell damage, and even cell death. Mitochondrial diseases are usually progressive; they manifest differently and affect those parts of the body that have highest energy demands: brain, muscles or heart. These tiny pieces of DNA are inherited only from our mothers. So, each of us inherited these 37 genes from our mother, who inherited them from hers, and so on and so forth through generations.

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

Summer Reading Suggestions from Scientists: Shirley Tilghman

 

Non-Science Selection:

Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer. In his brilliant debut novel, this American writer, who was born in Vietnam, uses the end and aftermath of the Vietnam War as a dramatic backdrop to explore the nature of identity and conflicts of loyalty, The anonymous narrator is a jumble of identities—the son of a Vietnamese woman and a French priest; a Communist working undercover as an aide to a South Vietnamese general; and a blood brother of both a C.I.A. assassin and a Vietcong leader. He believes in the revolution, but is haunted when he is required to murder in its name, and, ultimately, is abandoned by its leaders.

The narrative begins with a vivid portrayal of the last days of the fall of Saigon, as the narrator works feverishly to extract himself, his general and family off the rooftop of the American embassy. They ultimately land in California, where the general immediately begins to plot his return to Saigon. The narrator is hired to advise a filmmaker (referred to only as “the auteur,” but clearly meant to be Francis Ford Coppola) on a film about the war. The narrator believes he has been hired to give an authentic voice to the Vietnamese, whose sufferings and struggle have largely been untold in the West, but he fails in tragicomic fashion. In the end, the narrator is torn in two by his competing loyalties to politics and friendship. This is a deeply moving story of a young man in search of meaning in his life.

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

Summer Reading Suggestions from Scientists: Robert Horvitz

Two Science Selections: 

Horace Freeland Judson, Eighth Day of Creation. A comprehensive history of the origins and early science of the field of modern molecular biology, written by historian Horace Freeland Judson based on personal interviews with those who drove the revolution in biology. First and foremost are the science—DNA, RNA and protein, the genetic code, and gene regulation—and the scientific process—the seed ideas, the “aha” insights and the brilliant and elegant experiments. But this book is also the story of scientists in the process of discovery and of how the science that emerged was at least as much a consequence of the personalities as of the experimental skills of those involved. Fascinating, engaging, and fun—I’ve recommended this book to many, scientist and non-scientist alike.

Georgina Ferry, Dorothy Hodgkin. A superb biography of one of modern science’s most exceptional and distinguished pioneers. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964 for determining the crystal structures of penicillin and vitamin B12, Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin faced repeated challenges as a woman attempting to study and then pursue a career in chemistry in the 1930s and 1940s in England. Hodgkin is only one of four women ever awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry; the others were Marie Curie (1911); her daughter Irene Joliot-Curie (1935); and Ada Yonath (2009). Once recognized, Hodgkin worked hard to combat social inequalities and was president for more than a decade of Pugwash, an international organization founded by Bertrand Russell and dedicated to preventing war. Hodgkin has been a role model for many, although she disagreed rather strongly with the political views and actions of her most famous student, Margaret Thatcher.

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 News

Interview: “Democratic deliberation” and bioethics

With an election round the corner, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is coming to the end of its term. The Commission recently released its final report, entitled Bioethics for Every Generation: Deliberation and Education in Health, Science and Technology. The report discusses the complexities bioethical decision-making in an age of deep ideological disagreements and rapid biomedical progress. The Commission members are optimistic, suggesting that agreement can be reached on substantive bioethical policy matters through processes of “democratic deliberation”. The report proposes an ambitious educational program to improve the bioethical literacy of the public, and also outlines a series of civic virtues that policy stakeholders should adopt when debating ethical issues.

Last week Xavier Symons, of BioEdge, conducted an email interview with Col. Nelson L. Michael, MD, PhD, about the report and the future of bioethics in the United States. Col. Michael is a PCSBI member, and also Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. 

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BioEdge: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the likely candidates for the Presidency. Will the Commission continuing to function under a new administration?

Nelson Michael: From 1974-1994, national bioethics bodies in the US were established by Congress. Since the mid-1990s, each of the last three presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, has established bioethics commissions to explore ethical issues in science, medicine, and technology. President Barack Obama created the current commission by Executive Order in November 2009. This Commission’s tenure will end when the next President is inaugurated.

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

In The Journals – April Part II by Michelle Pentecost

Another set of great papers from the journals in April. Enjoy!

 

 Social Science & Medicine

‘I knew before I was told’: Breaches, cues and clues in the diagnostic assemblage

 Louise Locock, Sarah Nettleton, Susan Kirkpatrick, Sara Ryan and Sue Ziebland

Diagnosis can be both a ‘diagnostic moment’, but also a process over time. This paper uses secondary analysis of narrative interviews on ovarian cancer, antenatal screening and motor neurone disease to explore how people relate assembling procedural, spatial and interactional evidence before the formal diagnostic moment. We offer the idea of a diagnostic assemblage to capture the ways in which individuals connect to and re-order signs and events that come to be associated with their bodies. Building on the empirical work of Poole and Lyne (2000) in the field of breast cancer diagnosis, we identify how patients describe being alerted to their diagnosis, either through ‘clues’ they report picking up (often inadvertently) or through ‘cues’, perceived as a more intentional prompt given by a health professional, or an organisational process. For patients, these clues frequently represent a breach in the expected order of their encounter with healthcare. Even seemingly mundane episodes or behaviours take on meanings which health professionals may not themselves anticipate. Our findings speak to an emergent body of work demonstrating that experiences of formal healthcare during the lead-up to diagnosis shape patients’ expectations, degree of trust in professionals, and even health outcomes.

 

Socio-economic divergence in public opinions about preventive obesity regulations: Is the purpose to ‘make some things cheaper, more affordable’ or to ‘help them get over their own ignorance’?

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

Conference Report: ‘Comment penser l’anthropocène?’ at Collège de France, Paris by Yannick van den Berg

November 5 & 6, 2015 – Conference Program and Videos

The two-day conference ‘Comment penser l’anthropocène?’ (‘How to think the Anthropocene?’) at the Collège de France in Paris brought together numerous scholars from natural and political sciences, from philosophy, anthropology, sociology, history and law. It was chaired by Catherine Larrère and Philippe Descola with the support of the patronage committee around Stefan Helmreich, Tim Ingold, Sandra Laugier, Carolyn Merchant and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro.

As this selection of contributions will show, the conference’s talks centered around fundamental and far-reaching questions of science, law, politics, economy and philosophy in the time of the Anthropocene and did not fail to stimulate controversial discussions. Overall, the conference made clear that much progress was made in finding a colloquial voice of the different disciplines and understandings. The question of how to think the Anthropocene, however, can yet hardly be seen in a different way than an idea to be explored, an idea that bears existential implications of how we humans and non-humans inhabit our future environments. Intermingled with ontological and epistemological considerations are issues of well-being and integration. Health, community, territory, economics and law are the practical and political tasks to be tackled.

In his opening speech, Philippe Descola (Collège de France) laid out the ground for the following two days by first locating the Anthropocene in the history of the Earth and human beings. In 200,000 years of co-evolution, humans indeed altered their surrounding environment to sometimes irreversible degrees. But as long as agriculture constituted the basic form of production they were not alienated from nature.

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.