Volume XXVIII Number 1
Better babies. Fitter families. Race suicide. These are just a very few of the topics health historian Ruth Engs covers in The Eugenics Movement, a new encyclopedia written by Engs and released by Greenwood Press. Advocated widely in the early 1900s, the controversial theory of eugenics held that the betterment of the human race could be achieved through controlled human breeding, emphasizing racial segregation, immigration restrictions, and forced sterilization. The echoes of eugenics may be heard in debates over “good” and “bad” genes that underlie today’s hot scientific issues such as genetic engineering and human cloning, says Engs, a professor of applied health sciences at IU Bloomington: “Biology, politics, sociology, public health, all of these areas were involved in the eugenics movement in the early 1920s. And they are today, it’s just not called eugenics anymore.” Engs’s encyclopedia covers almost 200 years and includes more than 250 entries such as “race suicide,” the notion that American civilization was threatened by the intermarrying of the “unfit.” The eugenics movement attracted some of the most prominent scientists of the day including Alexander Graham Bell and former IU President David Starr Jordan, who later, as president of Stanford University, was a supporter of eugenic sterilization.
New Drugs, New Hope
In 2005, more than 200,000 U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, with an estimated 40,000 deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute. Recently, Kathy Miller, an assistant professor at the IU School of Medicine, has offered some hopeful findings concerning effective new breast cancer drugs. One of Miller’s major research efforts involves Avastin (made by Genentech), a drug that chokes off a tumor’s blood supply. In preliminary results from a large, three-year clinical trial, Miller showed that for women with previously untreated recurrent or metastatic breast cancer, Avastin—in combination with standard chemotherapy—delayed the worsening of the cancer by an average of four months compared to patients who received chemotherapy alone. For women with advanced disease, Miller says, this is “a major advance.” Miller has also led a small clinical trial of an experimental drug compound called Sutent (made by Pfizer), which inhibits multiple growth factors simultaneously, halting the development of blood vessels and cell reproduction. In the trial, Sutent stopped the progression of breast cancer or shrank tumors by half in about 14 percent of participants with advanced breast cancer. Miller and colleagues are also involved in national clinical trials of the breast cancer drug Herceptin which have recently shown that, in combination with chemotherapy, Herceptin cut cancer recurrence by an astounding 52 percent for patients with HER-2-positive breast cancer, a particularly resistant form of the disease. “Adding Herceptin to chemotherapy,” Miller said on the IUSM’s radio show, Sound Medicine, “takes one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer and makes it one of the easiest and most successful forms to treat.”
A Little Byte Music
Mozart, mathematics, and computers are an integral part of Christopher Raphael’s life, and he has brought those three passions into harmony for musicians and music lovers. Raphael, an associate professor of informatics at IU Bloomington, has developed Music Plus One, a sophisticated computerized instrumental accompaniment program that responds in real time to a soloist. The program learns from a soloist’s past performances of, say, a concerto or sonata, and assimilates the soloist’s interpretation. Then, as the musician plays, the accompanying music is synthesized through an audio recording. “MPO adds to a soloist’s experience by providing a responsive and nuanced accompaniment rather than imposing a rigid framework that stifles musical expression,” says Raphael, an oboist who at 17 was the winner of the San Francisco Symphony Young Artist competition and later performed with the Santa Cruz Symphony. MPO reverses the approach of a popular training method called Music Minus One, where a student plays a missing solo part to a prerecorded instrumental accompaniment. In the MMO method, Raphael says, “contrary to both musical etiquette and common sense, the soloist mustt follow the accompaniment.” Raphael’s current research, which has received funding from the National Science Foundation, synthesizes sound data from sampled audio recordings of accompaniments derived from MMO. He is also working with polyphonic solo input, thus allowing a piano or several instruments to play the role of soloist. “I believe these accompaniment systems will someday be as commonplace in the musician’s toolbox as the metronome and tuner, but much more appreciated,” says Raphael, who holds a doctorate in applied mathematics. Listen to samples of Music Plus One at xavier.informatics.indiana.edu/~craphael/music_plus_one.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
One hundred and twenty years ago, Charles Darwin predicted it. Seventy years ago, scientists discovered it. But only now have scientists figured out how it works. “It” is the plant hormone auxin, which causes roots to grow down, flowers to track the moving sun, and controls just about every other aspect of plant growth and development. In a spring issue of Nature, IU Bloomington Professor of Biology Mark Estelle and Research Associates Nihal and Sunethra Dharmasiri reported “compelling evidence that the protein TIR1 is an auxin receptor,” meaning that auxin binds to the protein inside plant cells. In the same issue, scientists in the United Kingdom reported a virtually identical result. When it’s time for a plant to grow, the auxin-TIR1 complex signals for the destruction of other proteins that repress plant growth. Once the repressor is destroyed, growth genes are turned on, and the plant gets a boost. “How auxin works has been a holy grail in plant science,” says Estelle, who led the research supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Energy. “That we’ve all been trying to figure it out for so long makes this latest discovery very satisfying.” The discovery represents a major breakthrough in basic plant science, and because the TIR1 receptor is present in animals as well, the finding could lead to new insights into how proteins function in human growth.
100 Years of Hoosier History
The quarterly Indiana Magazine of Historyis celebrating its 100th year of publication, making it one of the longest-running scholarly historical journals in the nation. The magazine has launched several centennial initiatives including a project with historians from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis and social studies teachers in the Brown County School Corp. The IMHis placing online an extensive selection of primary documents—letters, memoirs, and diaries—selected from its back issues, and a teacher is working with IMH staff to make primary- and secondary-school lesson plans in Indiana history available directly through the journal’s Web site (www.indiana.edu/~imaghist). Special IMH issues for 2005 focus on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln; the legacy of Robert and Helen Lynd’s Middletown, the classic 1927 study of Muncie, Ind.; and a look back by former editor James Madison, Thomas and Kathryn Miller Professor of History at IU Bloomington, and longtime associate editor Lorna Lutes Sylvester at how the face of Indiana, and of Indiana history, has changed over the last century. “We play a key role as a venue for serious, provocative research about what distinguishes the culture of this state, past and present,” says Eric Sandweiss, Carmony Associate Professor of History at IUB and editor of the IMH. “That was true for the magazine in 1905, and it’s just as true today.”
The 'Human Collage' in Cuba
A professor of labor studies at IU Northwest, Ruth Needleman has long been involved in the lives of workers. More than a decade ago, she founded the Swingshift College at IUN, a degree program customized to the experiences and needs of working adults. Recently, Needleman’s interest in working conditions, workers’ lives, and how unions function under communism has taken her to Cuba. In 2003 she and United Auto Workers’ photographer Frank Hammer traveled in Cuba as part of a labor delegation to meet with workers and leaders of unions in light industry. She returned in 2004 to present a workshop at an international conference on learning. Needleman and Hammer have now created the photography exhibit Cuba!, a collection of images portraying the day-to-day realities of Cuban life. The exhibit opened in the Gary area earlier this fall. “Our photos reflect the open welcome we received and our travels along the streets of Havana and Guantanamo,” Needleman says. In Cuba, she discovered, “children receive the best of everything. Everyone has free health care, available in every factory and community, and free education up to and including medical school.” But Needleman also saw that economic blockade has made lives very difficult. “You could see the hardship in buildings desperate for renovation, lack of hot water and sometimes any water, and a very limited variety of food products,” she says. Needleman calls Cuba a “human collage,” adding that the photography exhibit will “open the door to Cuba as it is for those who have little knowledge of this island nation.”