Tag Archives: genetics

Recess Rehash: Henrietta Lacks vs. HeLa, and the People Behind the Specimens

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[With the news that HBO and Oprah Winfrey will release an adaptation of Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in April 2017, enjoy this discussion with Lacks’ great grandaughter and grandson, originally recorded in 2013]

The efficacy of any biomedical researcher is based on his or her foundation of scientific knowledge.  Few would have any problem grasping that idea.  What’s less well understood, by both researchers and laypeople alike, are the stories of the biological materials they work with.  Often these materials are cell cultures, tissue samples, human DNA.

From left to right: Dave Etler, Eboni Jones, Victoria Baptiste, David Lacks, Alison Pletch, and Greg Pelc.

Unlike the chemicals, reagents, test tubes, and machinery used in research, these materials often come from people.  That’s easily forgotten when they can be ordered from catalogs and websites in the way of other commodities. But those people, who may no longer live among us, have stories.  In the case of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman who passed away in the early 1950s of cervical cancer, the cells taken from her without her or her families’ knowledge touched off a revolution in biomedical science.

Henrietta and Day Lacks (From
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,”
R. Skloot, 2009)

They’ve contributed to the vaccine for polio, were the first cells to be cloned, and have been used in a number of cancer, virus, and pharmacological studies all over the world. Rebecca Skloot’s 2009 book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks noted that Mrs. Lacks’ cells have been used in more than 60,000 studies, and 300 more are being added each month.  They are of huge importance to science because they were the first so-called immortal cell line–unlike most cells, they divide and reproduce essentially without limit.  But though no-one in Henrietta Lacks’ family knew of their existence at first, the cells ultimately became of huge importance to her descendants.  In this episode, Alison Pletch, Eboni Jones, Greg Pelc, and I were honored to be able to welcome two members of the Lacks family to the show.  David Lacks is Mrs. Lacks’ grandson, and Victoria Baptiste is her great granddaughter, and they spoke with us about their ancestor, informed consent, and their work with the National Institutes of Health on HeLa cell research guidelines.

The opinions expressed in this feed and podcast are not those of the University of Iowa or the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

Recess Rehash: Here’s Lemons In Your Eyes

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lemon eye photo
You shall pay. Photo by ezhikoff

[Since Dave and the Writing and Humanities Program was putting on an art-and-medicine conference last week, we’re posting this rerun.  Enjoy!]

Dave helps Mark Moubarek, Amy Young, Rob Humble, and Corbin Weaver to practice their clinical skills by  answering random people’s “health” questions from the saddest place on the Internet. But first we discuss the AMA’s policy to support the ban on direct to consumer advertising of drugs and implantable devices, and how such advertising makes the doctor-patient relationship complicated. Will drug companies retaliate by advocating for bans on advertising doctors and hospitals to patients.  Researchers in the UK may be about to get the green light to edit the genes of human embryos seeking answers to why some miscarriages happen.  Are we approaching the slippery slope?

Continue reading Recess Rehash: Here’s Lemons In Your Eyes

Here’s Lemons In Your Eyes

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lemon eye photo
You shall pay. Photo by ezhikoff

Dave helps Mark Moubarek, Amy Young, Rob Humble, and Corbin Weaver to practice their clinical skills by  answering random people’s “health” questions from the saddest place on the Internet. But first we discuss the AMA’s policy to support the ban on direct to consumer advertising of drugs and implantable devices, and how such advertising makes the doctor-patient relationship complicated. Will drug companies retaliate by advocating for bans on advertising doctors and hospitals to patients.  Researchers in the UK may be about to get the green light to edit the genes of human embryos seeking answers to why some miscarriages happen.  Are we approaching the slippery slope?

Continue reading Here’s Lemons In Your Eyes

Episode 099: Burn due to water skis on fire

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caffeine photo
Seems about right. Photo by emdot

Are you under-caffeinated but hate the kind of caffeine that doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth?  Do you lack ways to describe unlikely illnesses and injuries with absurd specificity?  Then come along with us as Kaci McCleary, Dylan Todd (Todd Dylan?), Marc Toral, and Lisa Wehr explore medical news that makes us go hmm…
Continue reading Episode 099: Burn due to water skis on fire

Episode 068: Welcome to Cheese Island

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cheeses photo
Your laxative awaits! Photo by Skånska Matupplevelser

John Pienta, Aline Sandouk, and Kaci McCleary (Ethan Forsgren joined in later) debate the merits of Iowa’s recently defeated measure that would have allowed PhD psychologists to prescribe psych meds.  Would they be able to deal with co-morbidities? Would an education course be enough to cope with the complexities of psychiatric medications?  Do psych meds function at a level so fundamental to the operation of the human brain that allowing people without a certain basic level of psychiatric education would be too dangerous, or are prescribing algorithms enough? Continue reading Episode 068: Welcome to Cheese Island

Episode 064: 21 Mumps Street

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virus photo
In a world where people don’t get vaccinated, only one thing can save us. @#$%^ing SCIENCE! Photo by ZYG_ZAG

Cole Cheney, Matt Maves, Aline Sandouk and Dave talk about Cole’s revolutionary new idea to help antivaccers understand the consequences of their decision: create pop culture around everyday diseases! Yay! Write books, create movies, and television shows that deal with the issue! I’d watch a movie about measles in Disneyland, wouldn’t you?
Continue reading Episode 064: 21 Mumps Street

Episode 042: The M1s Are All Right

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love me tapeworm! by kaelyn, Flickr

One week of the semester gone, and M1s Aline Sandouk, Ethan Craig, and Nathan Miller report in on their experiences.  Who’s their favorite lecturer?  They won’t say, but they seem to be alive, well, and moving right along. Also, the FDA thinks we should regulate the use of feces as a drug. How an extreme athlete who isn’t a scientist did what she always does–pushes through the pain–to discover her genetic flaw when no-one else could. A company founded by a medical student with a bioengineering background comes up with a smart, simple, easy way to treat a scourge of childbirth in developing countries–postpartum hemorrhage. And a quick plug for The Discover Fit & Health channel which continues its fine tradition of infotainment programming with “Untold Stories of the ER,” featuring a story of a woman who fed her daughter tapeworms to get her ready for that all-important beauty pageant.

Listen to Episode 041: The M1s Are All Right.
Listen to more great shows for medical students on The Vocalis Podcast Network.

The opinions expressed in this feed and podcast are not those of the University of Iowa or the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

Episode 035: Freestyling in Bean!

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Lisa Wehr and Dave are free styling in Bean Learning Community! 

Our own Lisa Wehr, in a grain bin.

We talk about her recent class on the public health aspects of farming.  How a 3-year-old in a Batman suit and 43 seniors in an IHOP helped create a tool (launching soon) that promises to help seniors understand and talk to their doctors about the costs of care. We discuss social media health information, and how it’s the worst.  An ER doc asks herself whether docs need to get hit by cars to understand what their patients are trying to tell them.  A geneticist sequences his unborn child’s genome “because it’s cool.” How the British Cycling team’s efforts to win the Tour de France suggests that the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ might be better and easier than big, sexy fixes, even in healthcare and studying medicine.  And Cleveland Clinic is forced to graduate a student who just…well, he didn’t meet their professionalism goals for their students.

Listen to Episode 035: Freestyling in Bean.

Listen to more great shows for medical students on The Vocalis Podcast Network.

The opinions expressed in this feed and podcast are not those of the University of Iowa or the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

Episode 025: Henrietta Lacks vs. HeLa, and the People Behind the Specimens

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The efficacy of any biomedical researcher is based on his or her foundation of scientific knowledge.  Few would have any problem grasping that idea.  What’s less well understood, by both researchers and laypeople alike, are the stories of the biological materials they work with.  Often these materials are cell cultures, tissue samples, human DNA.

From left to right: Dave Etler, Eboni Jones, Victoria Baptiste, David Lacks, Alison Pletch, and Greg Pelc.

Unlike the chemicals, reagents, test tubes, and machinery used in research, these materials often come from people.  That’s easily forgotten when they can be ordered from catalogs and websites in the way of other commodities. But those people, who may no longer live among us, have stories.  In the case of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman who passed away in the early 1950s of cervical cancer, the cells taken from her without her or her families’ knowledge touched off a revolution in biomedical science. 

Henrietta and Day Lacks (From
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,”
R. Skloot, 2009)

They’ve contributed to the vaccine for polio, were the first cells to be cloned, and have been used in a number of cancer, virus, and pharmacological studies all over the world. Rebecca Skloot’s 2009 book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” noted that Mrs. Lacks’ cells have been used in more than 60,000 studies, and 300 more are being added each month.  They are of huge importance to science because they were the first so-called immortal cell line–unlike most cells, they divide and reproduce essentially without limit.  But though no-one in Henrietta Lacks’ family knew of their existence at first, the cells ultimately became of huge importance to her descendants.  In this episode, Alison Pletch, Eboni Jones, Greg Pelc, and I were honored to be able to welcome two members of the Lacks family to the show.  David Lacks is Mrs. Lacks’ grandson, and Victoria Baptiste is her great granddaughter, and they spoke with us about their ancestor, informed consent, and their work with the National Institutes of Health on HeLa cell research guidelines.

Listen now to Episode 025: Henrietta Lacks vs. HeLa, and the People Behind the Specimens

The opinions expressed in this feed and podcast are not those of the University of Iowa or the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

Episode 020: Positive Exposure with Rick Guidotti

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Photos by Rick Guidotti

Rick Guidotti is a fashion photographer working in New York, Milan, Paris, and London for everyone from Elle to Yves Saint Laurent. In 1997, he and physician Diane McLean founded Positive Exposure, a non-profit organization dedicated to using the visual arts to highlight the beauty of genetic diversity and challenging the stigmas associated with differences in appearance. Positive Exposure presents diversity workshops, educational and human rights programs, and multimedia exhibitions for physicians, nurses, genetic counselors, health care professionals-in-training, universities, elementary and secondary schools, legislators, and the general public.  Rick sat down with Iowa medical students Kurt Wall and Miriam Wiener to talk about his work with Positive Exposure, and about what families who live with genetic, physical, and intellectual differences want: to have their stories heard.

While you listen, be sure to visit http://positiveexposure.org/, and look at the galleries at the bottom of the page to meet the families and people that Positive Exposure works with.

Listen to Episode 020: Positive Exposure with Rick Guidotti.

The opinions expressed in this feed and podcast are not those of the University of Iowa or the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.