Prisoners of the proximate: loosening the constraints on epidemiology in an age of change.
"Modern epidemiology" has a primary orientation to the study of multiple risk factors for chronic noncommunicable diseases. If epidemiologists are to understand the determinants of population health in terms that extend beyond proximate, individual-level risk factors (and their biological mediators), they must learn to apply a social-ecologic systems perspective. The mind-set and methods of modern epidemiology entail the following four main constraints that limit engagement in issues of wider context: 1) a preoccupation with proximate risk factors; 2) a focus on individual-level versus population-level influences on health; 3) a typically modular (time-windowed) view of how individuals undergo changes in risk status (i.e., a life-stage vs. a life-course model of risk acquisition); and 4) the, as yet, unfamiliar challenge of scenario-based forecasting of health consequences of future, large-scale social and environmental changes. The evolution of the content and methods of epidemiology continues. Epidemiologists are gaining insights into the complex social and environmental systems that are the context for health and disease; thinking about population health in increasingly ecologic terms; developing dynamic, interactive, life-course models of disease risk acquisition; and extending their spatial-temporal frame of reference as they perceive the health risks posed by escalating human pressures on the wider environment. The constraints of "the proximate" upon epidemiology are thus loosening as the end of the century approaches. (+info)
Reconstruction of a historical genealogy by means of STR analysis and Y-haplotyping of ancient DNA.
Archaeological excavations in St Margaretha's church at Reichersdorf, Germany, in 1993 led to the discovery of eight skeletons, so far assumed to be of the Earls of Konigsfeld, who used the church as a family sepulchre over a period of seven generations from 1546 to 1749. DNA-based sex testing and analysis of autosomal short tandem repeat systems (STR) was carried out to confirm the assumption of kinship. Since five of the individuals were determined as males, analysis of Y-specific STRs seemed feasible. A comparison of Y-haplotypes revealed that one individual could not be linked to the Konigsfeld patrilineage, an observation supported by autosomal STR evidence. Two individuals typed as females posed an identification problem, since supposedly only male members of the family were buried in St Margaretha's. Nevertheless, these individuals could tentatively be identified as members of the House of Konigsfeld through genetic fingerprinting. (+info)
A bit of history.
Reviews of scientific literature began to appear in the 17th century. Journals dedicated to them soon followed, leading eventually to this one, which emerged in the 1930s as Bacteriological Reviews; it adapted to the many changes in our fluid discipline, evolving into the present, much broader Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews. (+info)
The original presentation of Boyle's law.
The original presentation of what we know as Boyle's law has several interesting features. First, the technical difficulties of the experiment were considerable, because Boyle used a glass tube full of mercury that was nearly 2.5 m long, and the large pressures sometimes shattered the glass. Next, Boyle's table of results contains extremely awkward fractions, such 10/13, 2/17, 13/19, and 18/23, which look very strange to us today. This was because he calculated the pressure for a certain volume of gas by using simple multiplication and division, keeping the vulgar fractions. Boyle was not able to express the numbers as decimals because this notation was not in common use at the time. Finally, his contention that pressure and volume were inversely related depended on the reader's comparing two sets of numbers in adjacent columns to see how well they agreed. Today we would plot the data, but again orthogonal graphs were not in general use in 1662. When Boyle's data are plotted by using modern conventional methods, they strongly support his hypothesis that the volume and pressure of a gas are inversely related. (+info)
Alexander Pope (1688-1744): his spinal deformity and his doctors.
Alexander Pope was the towering figure of 18th century England. A poet and a wit he commanded unswerving loyalty from his friends and penetrating hatred from his enemies. His spinal deformity, either due to tuberculosis, trauma or congenital weakness, shaped his career. This brief report highlights the illness and the medical men who were involved in treating Alexander Pope. (+info)
From Shakespeare to Defoe: malaria in England in the Little Ice Age.
Present global temperatures are in a warming phase that began 200 to 300 years ago. Some climate models suggest that human activities may have exacerbated this phase by raising the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Discussions of the potential effects of the weather include predictions that malaria will emerge from the tropics and become established in Europe and North America. The complex ecology and transmission dynamics of the disease, as well as accounts of its early history, refute such predictions. Until the second half of the 20th century, malaria was endemic and widespread in many temperate regions, with major epidemics as far north as the Arctic Circle. From 1564 to the 1730s the coldest period of the Little Ice Age malaria was an important cause of illness and death in several parts of England. Transmission began to decline only in the 19th century, when the present warming trend was well under way. The history of the disease in England underscores the role of factors other than temperature in malaria transmission. (+info)
Historical and cultural roots of drinking problems among American Indians.
Roots of the epidemic of alcohol-related problems among many Native North Americans are sought in cultural responses to European arrival, the role of alcohol in frontier society, and colonial and postcolonial policies. Evidence from the historical record is considered within the framework of current social science. Initially, Native American's responses to alcohol were heavily influenced by the example of White frontiersmen, who drank immoderately and engaged in otherwise unacceptable behavior while drunk. Whites also deliberately pressed alcohol upon the natives because it was an immensely profitable trade good; in addition, alcohol was used as a tool of "diplomacy" in official dealings between authorities and natives. The authors argue that further research into the origins of modern indigenous people's problems with alcohol would benefit from an interdisciplinary "determinants of health" approach in which biological influences on alcohol problems are investigated in the context of the cultural, social, and economic forces that have shaped individual and group drinking patterns. (+info)
Historical perspectives of cellular oxygen sensing and responses to hypoxia.
The responses to acute and chronic hypoxia begin with oxygen sensing, and this historical perspective is written in line with this concept. The earliest pertinent work started with studies on fermentation in yeast in the 17th century, before the discovery of oxygen. It required 200 yr to localize the oxygen sensing within the cells and another 100 yr to discover the cellular oxidation reactions. Today, the consensus is that the mitochondrial respiratory chain is in part the site of oxygen sensing. In addition, membrane-bound NAD(P)H oxidase possibly takes part in oxygen sensing. Oxygen-sensing mechanisms occur in a tissue-specific fashion. For example, the carotid body responds to hypoxia promptly by eliciting a ventilatory response, whereas erythropoietin production in response to hypoxia requires more time, involving new expression of genes. The mechanism has therefore moved from the cells to genes. (+info)