Cloning and embryonic stem cells: a new era in human biology and medicine.
The cloning of mammals using adult cells as nuclear donors has been achieved and the same procedure can be, at least theoretically, used to clone humans. Another recent technological advance, the derivation of human embryonic stem cells, opens up new possibilities in cell and tissue replacement therapy and heralds significant improvements in gene therapy. Besides suggesting new and potentially valuable medical applications, the insights gained through the use of these techniques could significantly enrich our understanding of basic mechanisms regulating human development. On the other hand, these preliminary results are viewed by many as the opening of the Pandora's box and there are loud voices clamoring that research in these areas be forbidden in perpetuity. I suggest in the following article that at present we do not know enough to make anything but an entirely emotional decision about future applications of these techniques. I try to summarize the current state of the kn owledge in the field and indicate how much further research is necessary if benefits and drawbacks are to be properly understood. (+info)
Women's exposure to early and later life socioeconomic disadvantage and coronary heart disease risk: the Stockholm Female Coronary Risk Study.
BACKGROUND: Measures of low socioeconomic position have been associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) among women. A more complete understanding of this association is gained when socioeconomic position is conceptualized from a life course perspective where socioeconomic position is measured both in early and later life. We examined various life course socioeconomic indicators in relation to CHD risk among women. METHODS: The Stockholm Female Coronary Risk Study is a population-based case-control study, in which 292 women with CHD aged < or =65 years and 292 age-matched controls were investigated using a wide range of socioeconomic, behavioural, psychosocial and physiological risk factors. Socioeconomic disadvantage in early life (large family size in childhood, being born last, low education), and in later life (housewife or blue-collar occupation at labour force entry, blue-collar occupation at examination, economic hardships prior to examination) was assessed. RESULTS: Exposure to early (OR = 2.65, 95% CI : 1.12-6.54) or later (OR = 5.38, 95% CI : 2.01-11.43) life socioeconomic disadvantage was associated with increased CHD risk as compared to not being exposed. After simultaneous adjustment for marital status and traditional CHD risk factors, early and later socioeconomic disadvantage, exposure to three instances of socioeconomic disadvantage in early life was associated with an increased CHD risk of 2.48 (95% CI : 0.90-6.83) as compared to not being exposed to any disadvantage. The corresponding adjusted risk associated with exposure to later life disadvantage was 3.22 (95% CI : 1.02-10.53). Further analyses did not show statistical evidence of interaction effects between early and later life exposures (P = 0.12), although being exposed to both resulted in a 4.2-fold (95% CI : 1.4-12.1) increased CHD risk. Exposure to cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage (combining both early and later life), across all stages in the life course showed strong, graded associations with CHD risk after adjusting for traditional CHD risk factors. Stratification of cumulative disadvantage by body height showed that exposure to more than three periods of cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage had a 1.7- (95% CI : 0.9-3.2) and 1.9- (95% CI : 1.0-7.7) fold increased CHD risk for taller and shorter women, respectively. The combination of both short stature and more than two periods of cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage resulted in a 4.4-fold (95% CI : 1.7-9.3) increased CHD risk. CONCLUSIONS: Both early and later exposure to socioeconomic disadvantage were associated with increased CHD risk in women. Later life exposure seems to be more harmful for women's cardiovascular health than early life exposure to socioeconomic disadvantage. However, being exposed to socioeconomic disadvantage in both early and later life magnified the risk for CHD in women. Cumulative exposure to socioeconomic disadvantage resulted in greater likelihood of CHD risk, even among women who were above median height. In terms of better understanding health inequalities among women, measures of socioeconomic disadvantage over the life course are both conceptually and empirically superior to using socioeconomic indicators from one point in time. (+info)
Personal growth in medical faculty: a qualitative study.
BACKGROUND: A physician's effectiveness depends on good communication, and cognitive and technical skills used with wisdom, compassion, and integrity. Attaining the last attributes requires growth in awareness and management of one's feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and life experiences. Yet, little empiric research has been done on physicians' personal growth. OBJECTIVE: To use qualitative methods to understand personal growth in a selected group of medical faculty. DESIGN: Case study, using open-ended survey methods to elicit written descriptions of respondents' personal growth experiences. SETTING: United States and Great Britain. PARTICIPANTS: Facilitators, facilitators-in-training, and members of a personal growth interest group of the American Academy on Physician and Patient, chosen because of their interest, knowledge, and experience in the topic area and their accessibility. MEASUREMENTS: Qualitative analysis of submitted stories included initially identifying and sorting themes, placing themes into categories, applying the categories to the database for verification, and verifying findings by independent reviewers. RESULTS: Of 64 subjects, 32 returned questionnaires containing 42 stories. Respondents and nonrespondents were not significantly different in age, sex, or specialty. The analysis revealed 3 major processes that promoted personal growth: powerful experiences, helping relationships, and introspection. Usually personal growth stories began with a powerful experience or a helping relationship (or both), proceeded to introspection, and ended in a personal growth outcome. Personal growth outcomes included changes in values, goals, or direction; healthier behaviors; improved connectedness with others; improved sense of self; and increased productivity, energy, or creativity. CONCLUSIONS: Powerful experiences, helping relationships, and introspection preceded important personal growth. These findings are consistent with theoretic and empiric adult learning literature and could have implications for medical education and practice. They need to be confirmed in other physician populations. (+info)
Genetic Models in Applied Physiology. Functional genomics in the mouse: powerful techniques for unraveling the basis of human development and disease.
Now that near-complete DNA sequences of both the mouse and human genomes are available, the next major challenge will be to determine how each of these genes functions, both alone and in combination with other genes in the genome. The mouse has a long and rich history in biological research, and many consider it a model organism for the study of human development and disease. Over the past few years, exciting progress has been made in developing techniques for chromosome engineering, mutagenesis, mapping and maintenance of mutations, and identification of mutant genes in the mouse. In this mini-review, many of these powerful techniques will be presented along with their application to the study of development, physiology, and disease. (+info)
Measurement of quality of life II. From the philosophy of life to science.
We believe it should be possible to make operational the philosophical ideas of the good life in order to make it the object of scientific research. The Quality of Life Research Center in Copenhagen, Denmark has therefore spent the last several years with these questions and tried to find practical and evidence-based scientific solutions. This paper describes the theoretical road taken in moving from the abstract philosophy of life to the actual questionnaire. It presents an important aspect of our work with the quality-of-life (QOL) concept though the last decade. We have developed the quality-of-life philosophy; the SEQOL, QOL5, and QOL1 questionnaires; the quality-of-life theory; and the quality-of-life research methodology. We carried out quality-of-life population surveys and developed techniques for improving quality of life with the chronically sick patient. This paper presents the struggle to create a rating scale for the generic measurement of the global quality of life, based on quality-of-life theory, derived from quality-of-life philosophy. The developed rating scale is a ratio scale combining a Likert scale, a visual analogue scale, and a numerical scale, to a reduced combination scale. This allows for the extraction of as much information from the respondents as possible without exhausting them unduly or demanding more than can be reasonably expected. (+info)
Measurement of quality of life VI. Quality-adjusted life years (QALY) is an unfortunate use of the quality-of-life concept.
The QALY (quality-adjusted life years) attempts to incorporate the dimension of quality of life into the evaluation by adjusting life years by a quality factor. In practice, this is based on discussing with people the progression of a number of hypothetical illnesses and their ensuing side effects. From this information, the person assesses how each state of health described compares with a theoretical maximum state of health. For example, 1 day with a certain condition might the equivalent of living only 0.5 days in good health. We believe that QALY value only represents a superficial impression of a person's quality of life. In short, the QALY does not express what it means for a person to live a life at reduced quality. We believe that if the patients were optimally informed and allowed to decide for themselves, they would more often reject high-tech expensive biomedical treatments that only serve to prolong life and do not increase its quality. The problem of priorities may then turn out to be far more simple and also more ethical: the focus will be on the quality of life, not on QALY, and the question of the meaning of life and death will achieve greater openness and respect. (+info)
Quality of life theory II. Quality of life as the realization of life potential: a biological theory of human being.
This review presents one of the eight theories of the quality of life (QOL) used for making the SEQOL (self-evaluation of quality of life) questionnaire or the quality of life as realizing life potential. This theory is strongly inspired by Maslow and the review furthermore serves as an example on how to fulfill the demand for an overall theory of life (or philosophy of life), which we believe is necessary for global and generic quality-of-life research. Whereas traditional medical science has often been inspired by mechanical models in its attempts to understand human beings, this theory takes an explicitly biological starting point. The purpose is to take a close view of life as a unique entity, which mechanical models are unable to do. This means that things considered to be beyond the individual's purely biological nature, notably the quality of life, meaning in life, and aspirations in life, are included under this wider, biological treatise. Our interpretation of the nature of all living matter is intended as an alternative to medical mechanism, which dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. New ideas such as the notions of the human being as nestled in an evolutionary and ecological context, the spontaneous tendency of self-organizing systems for realization and concord, and the central role of consciousness in interpreting, planning, and expressing human reality are unavoidable today in attempts to scientifically understand all living matter, including human life. (+info)
Quality of life theory III. Maslow revisited.
In 1962, Abraham Maslow published his book Towards a Psychology of Being, and established a theory of quality of life, which still is considered a consistent theory of quality of life. Maslow based his theory for development towards happiness and true being on the concept of human needs. He described his approach as an existentialistic psychology of self-actualization, based on personal growth. When we take more responsibility for our own life, we take more of the good qualities that we have into use, and we become more free, powerful, happy, and healthy. It seems that Maslow's concept of self-actualization can play an important role in modern medicine. As most chronic diseases often do not disappear in spite of the best biomedical treatments, it might be that the real change our patients have for betterment is understanding and living the noble path of personal development. The hidden potential for improving life really lies in helping the patient to acknowledge that his or her lust for life, his or her needs, and his or her wish to contribute, is really deep down in human existence one and the same. But you will only find this hidden meaning of life if you scrutinize your own life and existence closely enough, to come to know your innermost self. (+info)