WBEZ | medical research http://www.wbez.org/tags/medical-research Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Is It Time To Stop Using Race In Medical Research? http://www.wbez.org/news/it-time-stop-using-race-medical-research-114737 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/racemeds.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="storytext"><p><em>Genetics researchers often discover certain snips and pieces of the human genome that are important for health and development such as the genetic mutations that cause cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia. And scientists noticed that genetic variants are more common in some races &ndash; which makes it seem like race is important in genetics research.</em></p><p><em>But some researchers say that we&#39;ve taken the concept too far. To find out what that means, we&#39;ve talked to two of the authors of an&nbsp;<a href="http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6273/564.full">article</a>&nbsp;published Thursday in the journal&nbsp;</em>Science<em>. </em></p><p><em>Sarah Tishkoff is a human population geneticist and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Dorothy Roberts is a legal scholar, sociologist, and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania&#39;s Africana Studies department.&nbsp;This interview has been edited for length and clarity.</em></p><hr /><p><strong>How do geneticists use race now, and how does </strong><strong>that cause problems</strong><strong> for science?</strong></p><p><strong>Sarah Tishkoff: </strong>We know people don&#39;t group according to so called races based purely on genetic data. Whenever the topic comes up, we have to address, how are we going to define race? I have never ever seen anybody come to a consensus at any of these human genetics meetings.</p><p><strong>Dorothy Roberts:</strong> That&#39;s because race is based on cultural, legal, social and political determinations, and those groupings have changed over time. As a social scientist, looking at biologists treating these groupings as if they were determined by innate genetic distinctions, I&#39;m dumbfounded. There&#39;s so much evidence that they&#39;re invented social categories. How you can say this is a biological race is just absurd. It&#39;s absurd. It violates the scientific evidence about human beings.</p><p><strong>ST: </strong>But I as a human geneticist wouldn&#39;t want to imply that there are no differences &mdash;but among different ethnic groups, not racial classifications. For example, I&#39;m Ashkenazi Jewish. I have a much higher risk of getting certain genetic diseases that are common in certain Ashkenazi Jewish populations. That was an important question when I was having children.</p><p>There was a drug, called BiDil, that somebody claimed is more effective with African Americans than other race &ndash; which was not true. But there are genes that play a role in drug metabolism. So if a doctor was prescribing drug treatment based on her identification of race she&#39;d say, &quot;You should use drug A because that&#39;s better for people of European descent.&quot; But the patient might not carry the right gene. That might have negative consequences. That might be the wrong treatment for her.</p><p><strong>DR:</strong> Race isn&#39;t a good category to use to understand those differences or the commonalities. It in many cases leads researchers down the wrong path and leads to harmful results for patients. For example black patients who have the symptoms of cystic fibrosis aren&#39;t diagnosed because doctors see it as a white disease.</p><p><strong>So part of the problem is that when we see a high frequency of a medically relevant gene in one racial population, we start to assume that all members of that race have that gene?</strong></p><p><strong>ST:</strong> Yeah, I think that&#39;s right.</p><p><strong>DR:</strong> People take what&#39;s a difference in [gene] frequency and turn it into a categorical difference that interprets it as if one race has one gene and another race doesn&#39;t have the gene. You can&#39;t reach the conclusion that because you know someone&#39;s race you know what their genes are. It&#39;s not the case that there are populations where 100 percent, everyone, has those genes&nbsp;and&nbsp;nobody in other populations have those genes. It&#39;s a crude way and unhelpful way of figuring out what the disease risk is.</p><p><strong>ST: </strong>That&#39;s not to say that genetic risk in disease isn&#39;t important. I do think geography is important, and I think that people historically during evolutionary history have adapted to different environments.</p><p><strong>Is it that the science of genetics and the science of human populations are racist? Or is it that the numbers are there and, as a society, we&#39;re interpreting these things in a racist way?</strong></p><p>DR: There is a long history of justifying the subordination of different groups and social groupings based on myths about their biologic or genetic predispositions. It&#39;s not only that there&#39;s scientific evidence that humans aren&#39;t divided into discrete biological categories we&#39;d call races. But there&#39;s also evidence of the harm these biological meanings of race have caused for centuries. It&#39;s one of the reasons why it&#39;s difficult for human geneticists today to grapple with the meaning of race. You can&#39;t talk about race without also considering the history of racism.</p><p><strong>ST:</strong> But modern human geneticists, we&#39;re not trying to say they have a racist agenda. It&#39;s a positive thing to try and increase studies of genetic diversity that may differ across different ethnicities or ancestries.</p><p><strong>DR:</strong> Yes. I&#39;m not trying to say anything about the motivations or what scientists are trying now to do. Our paper is a call for scientists to come up with better ways of understanding human genetic diversity without relying on this antiquated concept of race There is a failure of imagination for people to think, what is there something better that we can use? Let&#39;s develop that.</p><p><strong>Is it that difficult, though? What are the things holding scientists back from developing something better?</strong></p><p><strong>ST:</strong> If I want a grant from the National Institutes of Health, I am required to check off the racial classification according to the U.S. government&#39;s census categories. I study very diverse people from all over Africa, but I believe the classification is African American or Black. I always feel awkward.</p><p><strong>DR:</strong> The NIH guidelines require the use of race in recruiting research subjects. There&#39;s a history of advocating for that in order to increase the participation of minorities in clinical research. Then it gets confusing, because the researchers continue to use these categories in conducting the research. Scientists must conform their research to these admittedly social categories of race.</p><p>ST: One also has to take into account that you need a way to identify your study population. Ideally you want ethnically diverse populations, so obviously you have to have some way of identifying research subjects. And that&#39;s fine. But they don&#39;t need to say based on race. The language and terminology does matter.</p><p><strong>DR: </strong>Except if the research question has to do with investigating the effects of racism &ndash; race as a social category that does affect people&#39;s lives and health and future because of the impact of social inequality. I often get the justification from doctors that &#39;I know it&#39;s crude but it&#39;s the best we have given the limited resources.&#39;</p><p><strong>ST:</strong> To some extent I think that&#39;s true. If a doctor doesn&#39;t have a readily available genetic test to look at ancestry or to look at individual genotypes of that person, race will be their best proxy. But the language matters. We need to move away from racial terminology, particularly in the field of medical genetics. That should just be eliminated. It reinforces the notion that there&#39;s a genetic basis to this classification system. We as scientists have to set an example.</p><p><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/02/05/465616472/is-it-time-to-stop-using-race-in-medical-research?ft=nprml&amp;f=465616472"><em>&mdash; via NPR</em></a></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/it-time-stop-using-race-medical-research-114737 Northwestern picks architects for building to replace Prentice http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-12/northwestern-picks-architects-building-replace-prentice-109328 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/19.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 840px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The architecture firm Perkins &amp; Will got the nod late last week to design the biomedical research facility that will be built on the site of the old Prentice Women&#39;s Hospital.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Northwestern University trustees made the decision last week, picking Perkins &amp; Will from a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-11/after-prentice-northwestern-shows-finalists-designs-new-building-109127">field of three finalists</a>. What did the design have that the others didn&#39;t? A university spokesman <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-12-07/news/ct-northwestern-design-winner-met-20131208_1_prentice-women-old-prentice-site-bertrand-goldberg">told the Tribune</a> the winning scheme has &quot;elegant design and functionality of the floor plans&quot;--a vague diagnosis, if there ever was one.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The project is expected to get underway in 2015 with a $370 million first phase, seen in the images below. A second phase--and there&#39;s no budget or timetable for it--includes the lab tower in the image above. The former Prentice Hospital, 303 E. Superior, which was the subject of the fiercest <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2011-04-22/preservation-group-proposes-re-use-plan-endangered-former-prentice-hospital-">preservation battle</a> in at least 30 years, is now under demolition.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Here&#39;s a look at some of Perkins &amp; Will&#39;s renderings:</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/15.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 840px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Here&#39;s the building&#39;s lobby. Conference rooms on the second and third levels would have views of the space and of the outdoors:</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4_2.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 442px;" title="" /></div><p>And here&#39;s what lab spaces could look like:</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10_0.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 438px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Will Chicago get great architecture out of this? That was the promise, of course, from Northwestern University and City Hall once the pipes started calling for old Prentice. The glassy, angular facade in the first phase holds a lot of promise--as far as one can tell with renderings, at least. It looks like a building the city could live with if the second phase winds up not getting built.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But the building looks best with the tower. The tower doubles the building&#39;s area to 1.2 million sq ft and makes what could be a much-needed elegant mark on the Streeterville skyline. So it&#39;s troubling that Northwestern--so exacting in its public appeal for Prentice&#39;s demolition--can&#39;t say publicly when <em>the other half of their new building</em> will be constructed.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As the former Prentice is wrecked and hauled away and the new design makes its way through approvals and design refinements, the fight for good architecture on that site might not yet be over.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 09 Dec 2013 00:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-12/northwestern-picks-architects-building-replace-prentice-109328 Chicago customs seizes 18 heads meant for research http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-customs-seizes-18-heads-meant-research-104930 <p><p>It sounded ghoulish enough: a shipment of 18 frozen human heads discovered and seized by customs officials during routine X-ray screening of cargo arriving at O&#39;Hare International Airport in Chicago.</p><p>Turns out the heads were used for medical research in Italy and were being returned for cremation in Illinois. The holdup was due to a paperwork problem.</p><p>It just so happens such shipments are commonplace, and heads &mdash; quite a few of them &mdash; crisscross the globe via airplane and delivery truck.</p><p>&quot;Just last week, we transported eight heads, unembalmed, to Rush University Medical Center for an ophthalmology program,&quot; said Paul Dudek, director of the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois, which supplies cadavers and body parts to medical schools in the state for training students.</p><p>His association sends about 450 whole cadavers to medical schools each year and also ships individual body parts, including about a dozen shipments of heads annually.</p><p>The heads are used for training in fields such as dentistry, ophthalmology and neurology, where they are used for Alzheimer&#39;s research. They are also used to train plastic surgeons and by students learning to perform facial reconstructions on accident and trauma victims, Dudek said.</p><p>Most cadavers are obtained through voluntary donation by people who designate a willingness to have their bodies benefit science upon their death, Dudek said. A much smaller proportion are the bodies of people whose families could not afford their burial and so agree to allow the state to release them for research.</p><p>The shipment to O&#39;Hare was properly preserved, wrapped and labeled &quot;human specimens,&quot; said Mary Paleologos, a spokeswoman for the Cook County Medical Examiner&#39;s Office, which took hold of the shipment on Monday for storage in its morgue cooler while authorities continued to investigate the paperwork.</p><p>With little information initially, news of the shipment&#39;s discovery fueled headlines and raised questions about where the shipment came from, where it was headed and why.</p><p>In the end, it turned out the shipment of three containers, which arrived in mid-December, was held up because of a mix-up with the paperwork and there was nothing suspicious about it or its destination.</p><p>The heads were originally sent from Illinois to a medical research facility in Rome and were returned to the Chicago area for disposal as part of the agreement for the order, Paleologos said.</p><p>On Tuesday, a cremation service arrived at the Medical Examiner&#39;s Office with paperwork for the specimens. Once federal authorities confirm the paperwork, the specimens will be turned over to the cremation service, she said.</p><p>U.S. Customs and Border Protection could not discuss the specific case because of privacy laws, but it said shipments of human remains into the U.S. &quot;are not without precedent,&quot; are lawful with the right documentation and fall within the agency&#39;s &quot;low-risk&quot; category.</p><p>Dudek said such shipments require thorough documentation, in part because the scarcity of bodies donated to science means there is a black market for them.</p><p>&quot;It does go on,&quot; he said of the illegal trade.</p><p>Besides medical schools, many corporations making medical instruments and appliances use cadavers for their training and research programs.</p><p>&quot;We receive about 600 whole-body donations a year. I could easily place 750, 800,&quot; he said, explaining the short supply.</p><p>Some shipments go by air, but others end up in delivery trucks just like any other package.</p><p>&quot;In fact, we sent out a shipment of brains to the University of Texas at Austin last week via UPS,&quot; Dudek said.</p></p> Tue, 15 Jan 2013 10:12:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-customs-seizes-18-heads-meant-research-104930 Controversial billboard on the Eisenhower alleges hot dogs cause cancer http://www.wbez.org/story/controversial-billboard-eisenhower-alleges-hot-dogs-cause-cancer-97265 <p><p>A controversial new billboard on the Eisenhower Expressway is trying to increase awareness of colorectal cancer with a blunt message: Hot Dogs Cause Butt Cancer.</p><p>Drivers passing between the Kostner and Cicero exits while heading west won't be able to miss the sign, which includes a cartoon drawing of a man in a hospital gown with a hot dog in hand. The <a href="http://www.pcrm.org/media/news/billboard-warns-chicago-of-hot-dog-butt-cancer">Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine </a>posted the billboard this week, in what they say is a way to get important research out of a medical journal and into people's brains.</p><p>Susan Levin, nutrition director for the PCRM, said the group was inspired by a 2007<a href="http://preventcancer.aicr.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&amp;id=15642&amp;news_iv_ctrl=0&amp;abbr=pr_"> American Institute for Cancer Research study</a> that said eating processed meats increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.</p><p>"Nobody knows this - this is the kind of language you hear when people talk about tobacco and lung cancer but nobody was associating processed meats like pepperoni, or hot dogs or deli meats with cancer," Levin said.</p><p>Levin said hopes the billboard raises awareness in a city that's known for its hot dogs.<br> <br> Meanwhile, the American Meat Institute is calling the billboard "outrageous." The national meat and poultry trade organization released a<a href="http://www.meatami.com/ht/display/ReleaseDetails/i/76277"> statement</a> Wednesday that cited multiple studies that say there is no link between colon cancer and processed meats. The statement said hot dogs are part of any healthy diet when put alongside vegetables, grains and dairy.<br> <br> In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found Illinois has one of the highest <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/statistics/state.htm">rates</a> of colorectal cancer in the country.</p></p> Wed, 14 Mar 2012 12:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/controversial-billboard-eisenhower-alleges-hot-dogs-cause-cancer-97265 Improv for Alzheimer's: 'A sense of accomplishment' http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-14/improv-alzheimers-sense-accomplishment-90592 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//npr_story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-15/Alzheimer&#039;s_Flickr_Ann Gordon.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Many newly diagnosed Alzheimer's patients go through the stressful phase of realizing they are losing their memory while still having enough insight to know that, over time, they will no longer be able to care for themselves.</p><p>So a team of researchers from Chicago — a city known for improvisational theater — is testing a new idea of whether unscripted theater games can affect the well-being of these patients.</p><p>"Improv is all about being in the moment, which for someone with memory loss, that is a very safe place," says Mary O'Hara, a social worker at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "Maybe thinking about the past and trying to remember makes the person a little anxious or even a bit sad because their memory is failing. And maybe thinking about the future too much is also anxiety-provoking. So being in the moment is such a safe and a good place to be."</p><p>The Northwestern researchers are working with the Tony Award-winning Lookingglass Theatre Company. There are already theater programs that use improv for Alzheimer's patients in the later stages of the disease, but this collaboration is unique because it's for early-stage patients.</p><p>"There's no experience required, there's no script, there's no memorization," O'Hara says. "They bring to it just their creative potential. And they are so successful at this."</p><p>Christine Mary Dunford, with Lookingglass, leads the group of novice performers in very simple improv games.</p><p>One "of the basic tenets of improv that [is] perfect for working with people with dementia [is] the concept of yes," Dunford says. "So, fundamental to all our work is that whatever answer someone comes up with, the rest of us are going to be able to work with it."</p><p>Researchers don't expect these games to stop or slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease, but they are investigating whether engaging the creative abilities of these early-stage patients improves their lives.</p><p>Before and after the eight-week program, participants and their families are asked a series of questions, checking to see how the course changes their answers.</p><p>"We're asking people to tell us how they're feeling about their physical health, their mood," says Darby Morhardt, a research associate professor at Northwestern. "How do they feel about their memory? How did they feel about their family, about their relationships? And also, how do they feel about their current situation as a whole and their life as a whole?"</p><p>"When we think of people with Alzheimer's and other dementia, we think about people who are losing skills on a daily basis," says improv coach Dunford. "But here, they're learning some new things, too.</p><p>It gives them a feeling of — a sense of self-confidence that they were able to accomplish this. And in this disease, there's not a lot of opportunity to feel a sense of accomplishment."</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Sun, 14 Aug 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-14/improv-alzheimers-sense-accomplishment-90592