Perspectives in Biology and Medicine

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine
Volume 49, Number 2, Spring 2006

CONTENTS

    Sullivan, Richard, 1944-
    Smith, John E.
    Rowan, Neil J.
  • Medicinal Mushrooms and Cancer Therapy: translating a traditional practice into Western medicine
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    Subject Headings:
    • Mushrooms -- Therapeutic use.
    • Cancer -- Alternative treatment.
    • Medicine, Chinese -- Formulae, receipts, prescriptions.
    Abstract:
      Modern medical practice relies heavily on the use of highly purified pharmaceutical compounds whose purity can be easily assessed and whose pharmaceutical activity and toxicity show clear structure-function relationships. In contrast, many herbal medicines contain mixtures of natural compounds that have not undergone detailed chemical analyses and whose mechanism of action is not known. Traditional folk medicine and ethno-pharmacology coupled to bioprospecting have been an important source of many anticancer agents as well as other medicines. With the current decline in the number of new molecular entities from the pharmaceutical industry, novel anticancer agents are being sought from traditional medicine. As the example of medicinal mushrooms demonstrates, however, translating traditional Eastern practices into acceptable evidence-based Western therapies is difficult. Different manufacturing standards, criteria of purity, and under-powered clinical trials make assessment of efficacy and toxicity by Western standards of clinical evidence difficult. Purified bioactive compounds derived from medicinal mushrooms are a potentially important new source of anticancer agents; their assimilation into Western drug discovery programs and clinical trials also provides a framework for the study and use of other traditional medicines.
    Rajan, T. V., 1945-
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: maladaptation of the vigilant genotype in a hyper-clean world?
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    Subject Headings:
    • Inflammatory bowel diseases -- United States -- Genetic aspects.
    • Children -- Diseases -- United States.
    • East Indian Americans -- Diseases.
    Abstract:
      Children born of Asian Indian parents who are raised in environmentally hygienic Western societies appear to be highly prone to two diseases, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. These ethnically Indian children are similar to an inbred mouse strain, NOD/Lt. Mice of this strain remain diabetes-free when raised in standard mouse colonies, but develop an autoimmune diabetes at high rates when kept in pathogen-free environments. I propose that certain human habitats have, over eons, selected for "vigilant genotypes," wherein combinations of alleles at critical loci result in aggressive immune responses to pathogens. This genetic configuration is adaptive in the selective environment but maladaptive in more hygienic environments, resulting in dysregulated immune effectors. One manifestation of such dysregulation is organ-specific autoimmunity, such as IBD.
    Barrett, Bruce.
    Muller, Daniel.
    Rakel, David.
    Rabago, David.
    Marchand, Lucille.
    Scheder, Joanne Caroline, 1953-
  • Placebo, Meaning, and Health
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    Subject Headings:
    • Placebo (Medicine)
    • Meaning (Psychology)
    • Health -- Psychological aspects.
    Abstract:
      Placebos are boon and bane to medical theory and clinical practice. On the one hand, randomized controlled trials employ concealed allocations of placebo to control for effects not due to specific pharmacological mechanisms. As a result, nearly all of evidence-based medicine derives from principles and practices based on placebo. On the other hand, medical researchers and physicians have tended to ignore, minimize, or deride placebos and placebo effects, perhaps due to values emphasizing scientific understanding of mechanistic pathways. We argue that intention, expectation, culture, and meaning are central to placebo-effect phenomena and are substantive determinants of health. We introduce three dualities that are integral to placebo/meaning phenomena: body-mind, subconscious-conscious, and passive-active. These placebo-related dualities should be acknowledged, explored with research, and incorporated in theory. While we view consideration of placebo and meaning effects as essential to any adequate understanding of human health, we feel that lessons from this area of inquiry may already provide practical tools for astute clinicians. Toward this end, we list eight specific clinical actions: speak positively about treatments, provide encouragement, develop trust, provide reassurance, support relationships, respect uniqueness, explore values, and create ceremony. These clinical actions can empower patients to seek greater health and may provide a healthful sense of being cared for.
    Scheurich, Neil.
  • The Prescriber as Moralist: values in the antidepressant debate
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    Subject Headings:
    • Antidepressants -- Public opinion.
    • Public opinion -- United States.
    Abstract:
      The past decade has seen a growing debate about the expanding use of psychotropic medications. Of particular concern are current antidepressants, as well as hypothetical "mood brighteners" that could modify affect and behavior in people heretofore classified as being within the normal range. This paper argues that objections to such pharmacologic applications are based on appeals to cultural values—authenticity, diversity, inwardness, and stoicism among others—that are viewed as being under increasing threat in contemporary American culture. Critiques of mood brighteners, like critiques of technological, consumer-driven culture, repudiate the ideals of shallow satisfaction and of the self as commodity. The decision to prescribe or not to prescribe a psychotropic medication in any given case is based on cultural values as well as clinical judgment.
    Silverstein, Arthur M.
    Ruggere, Christine.
  • Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle and the Case of Congenital Syphilis
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    Subject Headings:
    • Doyle, Arthur Conan, Sir, 1859-1930. Third generation.
    • Syphilis in literature.
    • Syphilis, Congenital, hereditary, and infantile -- England --London -- History -- 19th century.
    Abstract:
      In 1894, Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote "The Third Generation," a short story involving the transmission of congenital syphilis from generation to generation. Analysts of his writings have interpreted the pathogenetic mechanism involved in modern terms: infection of mother by father and then transplacental infection of the fetus. However, a review of the contemporary literature and the history of the concepts of congenital and "hereditary" syphilis demonstrates that the late 19th-century understanding of the process involved a Lamarckian transmission of paternal infection, via the sperm at the moment of conception. It was undoubtedly this concept that Doyle learned in medical school in the late 1870s and that provided the background to his story.
    Burnham, John C. (John Chynoweth), 1929-
  • A Clinical Alternative to the Public Health Approach to Mental Illness: a forgotten social experiment
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    Subject Headings:
    • Mental health services -- Kansas -- Topeka -- History -- 20th century.
    • Psychiatric aides -- Training of -- Kansas -- Topeka -- History -- 20th century.
    Abstract:
      In the last half of the 20th century, the community mental health movement, based on a public health model, came to dominate patterns of care for mental patients. In the process, brutal deinstitutionalization of very ill patients took place, at least in the United States. These events were not inevitable. In 1949, the Menningers of Topeka, Kansas, began administering Topeka State Hospital, which was in deplorable condition. By concentrating expenditures on clinical personnel, the Menningers humanely deinstitutionalized many patients—before chlorpromazine, before the entitlement programs of the U.S. federal government such as Medicaid (1965), and before the community psychiatry movement got under way. Topeka State Hospital furnished a model of mental health care that centered a whole system on a last-resort, large, specialized state mental hospital. This inadvertent social experiment suggests that a clinical approach to mental health care offers a hard-headed alternative to present arrangements.
    Davis, Rowland H.
  • Strong Inference: rationale or inspiration?
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    Subject Headings:
    • Platt, John. Strong inference.
    • Science -- Methodology.
    Abstract:
      John Platt's article "Strong Inference" (1964) suggested a general and effective method of scientific investigation. It describes a disciplined strategy of falsification of multiple, clearly formulated hypotheses that is used more regularly in some scientific fields than in others. Platt urged that strong inference be more widely and more systematically applied, particularly in slower-moving fields of science. The article has influenced integrative biological fields since its publication, ranging from ecology to psychology, and has had a substantial following in some of the social sciences. It has also evoked severe criticism for its idealization of certain fields as exemplars and for its imperfections in historiography and philosophy of science. I argue here that the article was more an inspirational tract than the development of a formal scientific methodology. Although both Platt's critics and his adherents appeared to take the article far too seriously, its influence has transcended its limitations.
    Fisher, Jill A.
  • Investigating the Barons: narrative and nomenclature in Munchausen syndrome
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    Subject Headings:
    • Münchhausen, Karl Friedrich Hieronymus von, Baron, 1720-1797.
    • Narrative medicine -- Psychological aspects.
    • Munchausen syndrome -- History.
    Abstract:
      Recounting stories of the 18th-century Baron von Münchhausen, the unauthorized appropriation of his name into literature, and Richard Asher's subsequent medical use of the name Munchausen 150 years later, this article examines the narratives that are told about and through Munchausen syndrome that create meaning within medicine. By analyzing a half-century debate over the name of the illness, this article discusses how the medical literature invests meaning in names and how names create meaning through narrative with effects on the practice of medicine.
    Swick, Herbert M.
    Bryan, Charles S.
    Longo, Lawrence D.
  • Beyond the Physician Charter: reflections on medical professionalism
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    Subject Headings:
    • Medicine.
    • Physicians -- Professional ethics.
    Abstract:
      The numerous challenges now facing the profession of medicine have led to an intense focus on professionalism by individual physicians and by their professional and academic organizations. In 2002, a distinguished group of leaders in internal medicine created the Physician Charter, which calls on physicians to reaffirm medical professionalism through commitment to three principles and 10 responsibilities. The Charter reflects a duty-based ethic that is chiefly concerned with physician competence. This article offers a critical analysis of the Physician Charter from the perspective of the traditional values of medicine as articulated in medical oaths and championed by leaders of past generations, exemplified by William Osler. The authors argue that medical professionalism should reflect the values of a virtue-based ethic that stresses compassion and beneficence, rather than the values of a duty-based ethic. The challenges that now confront the practice of medicine can be addressed successfully only to the extent that physicians promote virtue-ethics, act collectively in the public interest, and render service that clearly transcends their own self-interests.

Culture and Society

    Shanahan, Fergus.
    Quigley, Eamonn M. M.
  • Medicine in the Age of "Ulysses": James Joyce's portrait of life, medicine, and disease on a Dublin day a century ago
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    Subject Headings:
    • Joyce, James, 1882-1941. Ulysses.
    • Physician and patient in literature.
    • Dublin (Ireland) -- In literature.
    Abstract:
      Over time, contemporary writing becomes part of the historical record. In medicine, it is an important learning tool, particularly for understanding the experience and context of disease and illness. Although a century has elapsed since the fictional events on a single day described in James Joyce's Ulysses, the work is still fresh with references and allusions to doctors, illnesses, and the human experience. Ulysses provides perspective on medical and social history and offers a biting commentary of continuing relevance to the doctor-patient relationship.

Essay Reviews

Book Reviews

    Bard, Jonathan.
  • Models: The Third Dimension of Science (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Chadarevian, Soraya de, ed. Models: the third dimension of science.
    • Hopwood, Nick, ed.
    • Communication in science.
    Bollet, Alfred J.
  • War Hospital: A True Story of Surgery and Survival (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Fink, Sheri. War hospital: a true story of surgery and survival.
    • Yugoslav War, 1991-1995 -- Medical care -- Bosnia and Hercegovina -- Srebrenica.
    Reinhart, Martin.
    Weber, Marcel.
  • The Nature of Scientific Evidence: Statistical, Philosophical, and Empirical Considerations (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Taper, Mark L., 1952-, ed. Nature of scientific evidence: statistical, philosophical, and empirical considerations.
    • Lele, Subhash, ed.
    • Science -- Statistical methods.
    Perlman, Robert L.
  • The Epistemology of Development, Evolution, and Genetics: Selected Essays (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Burian, Richard M. Epistemology of development, evolution, and genetics: selected essays.
    • Developmental biology -- Philosophy.
    Kirsner, Joseph B., 1909-
  • The Optimist: Meditations on Medicine: Collected Essays, 1994-2003 (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Spiro, Howard M. (Howard Marget), 1924- Optimist: meditations on medicine: collected essays, 1994-2003.
    • Medicine.



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