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Wholly Hopkins
Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins


University: In the wake of attacks, university mourns

Astronomy: Observing the heavens from a desktop

University: Lead study fallout lingers

Homewood: Cancer trial in India draws fire

Nursing: Addressing a hidden killer in South Africa

Art History: Of sprites earthy and sublime

Health: Physician, heal the system

Biomedicine: New efforts to engineer tissue begin to gel

Historic Houses: A palette for life's lessons

Alumni: Catching up with Greg Drozdek '95

In Memoriam: A voice that will be missed

Wholly Hopkins Departments: Syllabus | Datebook | Academese | Forever Altered | Here & Abroad | Bottom Line | Vignette | Up & Comer | Findings | JHUniverse | Vital Signs |

In the Wake of Attacks, University Mourns

As twilight faded into purple darkness on September 13, two days after the fateful attack on America, hundreds of Johns Hopkins students, faculty, and staff gathered as one community on Homewood's Upper Quad. While some bowed their heads in prayer, others embraced tearfully or stared uncomprehendingly into the cool night air.

The diverse gathering--some 1,500 strong of Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Hindus--shared an intimacy born of collective grief. From her spot on the steps of Gilman Hall, university chaplain Sharon Kugler, with President William R. Brody, led those assembled in seeking the courage to move forward: "May we offer the power of our sorrow to the service of something greater than ourselves," she said. "We must understand that acts of terror are not religious acts. They are shameless acts of evil and ignorance."

Scenes from the vigil held on the Homewood campus
Photo by Jay Van Rensselaer
As the vigil drew to a close, many moved to the Gilman Hall steps to lay white carnations, symbols of the miracle and sanctity of life. And they lingered. Kugler would say later, "I was amazed at the number of people who stayed after. There was this yearning to keep connected with other people who are also feeling this tragedy so intensely--a certain kind of intimacy that we all shared."

There would be other opportunities for members of the Hopkins community to join together, including a student-led prayer service the next day, initiated by leaders of the Muslim student group; a march for peace over the weekend, involving students from several area colleges and ending in front of the Homewood campus; jam-packed religious services for students of every faith at the Bunting-Meyerhoff Interfaith Center; and, several weeks after the tragedy, a Speak Out Against Hatred event at the Glass Pavilion, sponsored by members of SEED (Students Educating and Empowering for Diversity).

For those touched personally by the tragedy--there are Hopkins students who lost parents, cousins, an uncle, and close friends--the wounds are still raw, the grieving process just begun.

But Kugler, and others, draw some measure of hope from the way members of the Johns Hopkins community united at the September 13 vigil to mourn and gain strength from one another. "It isn't something we do easily here at Hopkins, to take ourselves away from our duties, our jobs, our intellectual pursuits," said Kugler. "But on that Thursday, because we gathered, we gave ourselves permission to do it." --Sue De Pasquale

Wolfowitz Ponders Legacy of Terrorist Attacks

"The whole civilized world has been shocked by what has happened, and some elements of the uncivilized world are beginning to wonder if they are on the wrong side. We have unfortunately entered a new era, and we are going to be sorely tested," said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, former dean of Hopkins's Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, at a Pentagon press conference after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Observing the Heavens from a Desktop

In the 19th century, astronomers put their eyes to telescopes and sketched what they saw, one object at a time. They were restricted to visible light--to draw it, they had to see it. Then photography began recording images, and film became the data collector; faster and more sensitive, film expanded the astronomer's spectrum somewhat past the visible range at the red and violet ends. Now instruments that can detect a vast range of the spectrum--visible light, infrared, ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays, radio waves--are conducting comprehensive astronomical surveys and gathering information digitally at extraordinary speed. The result is a tsunami of data. "It's becoming increasingly easier to collect data than to make sense of it," says Alex Szalay.

Szalay: harnessing a tsunami of data
Photo by Mike Ciesielski
So Szalay, Hopkins professor of astronomy and a principal collaborator on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (Hopkins Magazine, April 2001), has become one of the prime movers behind the National Virtual Observatory. The NVO, as envisioned by Szalay and fellow astronomers and computer scientists at nearly two dozen institutions, will be a digital network linking astronomers, observatories, astronomical databases, and educational institutions. The network will permit almost any desktop computer to become a sophisticated virtual observatory.

The National Science Foundation just awarded the project a $10 million grant. Institutional players include Hopkins, the California Institute of Technology, and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Says Szalay, "An astronomer used to get some telescope time, collected data, brought the data tapes back to his own computer, and made sense of it there." Now, he says, a single night's observation may produce so much data the astronomer cannot, in effect, carry it all away. The planned Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will produce more than 10 petabytes of data per year by 2008--that's 10 million gigabytes from a single instrument. (In comparison, a typical desktop Mac or PC will have a hard drive of 20 to 30 gigabytes.)

Compounding the problem, says Szalay, is that this data is not static. The sky changes day by day because everything is in motion. Plus, astronomers must constantly apply corrections to their data to account for things like atmospheric effects and optical distortion. With each refinement, the dataset changes.

Several challenges must be tackled before the NVO can come to fruition. Scientists need to develop a common format for their databases, so that data collected from, say, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory are accessible to any astronomer in the world and can be manipulated by common tools. Someone has to write code to retrofit existing databases to a new standard. Such huge fields of data will require vastly more efficient databases and faster, more precise search engines, to enable rapid data searches, sorts, and retrievals. To handle the statistical analyses, scientists will need better algorithms to crunch massive amounts of data. Says Szalay, "We can't throw a billion computers at it. We need more clever ways to work with the data." Finally, the NVO will need rapid data transmission capabilities ... a very wide pipe, in Internet parlance.

Now that significant funding is in place, says Szalay, "we need to do a lot of small things first, to make sure we are on the right track." There will be, says Szalay, a lot of meetings: "If you lock a lot of smart people in a small room, good things come out of it." --Dale Keiger

Lead Study Fallout Lingers

An August ruling made by the Maryland Court of Appeals raised important questions about the future of public health research involving children. At issue: Is it ethical to enroll children in clinical trials that could pose risks?

The case involves a Kennedy Krieger Institute study of low-cost lead abatement efforts in East Baltimore, where an estimated 95 percent of homes have high lead levels. For the small children living in these homes, lead exposure can be devastating, contributing to brain damage, reduced intelligence and attention span, hearing loss, and learning and behavior problems.

The three-year study, conducted from 1993 to 1995, was led by Mark Farfel, a researcher at Hopkins's Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study looked at whether less expensive abatement strategies could be effective in reducing lead hazards. Researchers found that even minimum strategies-- such as limited repainting, professional cleaning to remove lead dust, and stabilizing of exterior lead paint-- significantly reduced home lead levels and led to a lasting reduction in children's elevated lead levels, to below the "level of concern."

According to Kennedy Krieger officials, the study ensured that the families in the study had vastly less lead exposure than other families in the neighborhood. Children also received regular blood tests and medical check-ups, said Gary Goldstein, Kennedy Krieger president.

But two mothers brought suit against Kennedy Krieger, charging researchers had allowed their children to live in homes with incomplete removal of old lead paint, and that, as a result, their children suffered brain damage.

In ruling that the suits could move forward, Maryland Court of Appeals judge Dale Cathell compared the Hopkins study to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment and to experiments inflicted upon prisoners at Buchenwald during World War II. The strongly worded ruling prohibited any future medical experiments on children that pose "any risk" and that do not directly benefit the children.

"This decision could have enormously broad implications, because almost all studies involve risk," responded Hopkins University President William R. Brody.

Bloomberg School of Public Health Dean Alfred Sommer criticized the ruling for implying that human subjects in nontherapeutic trials "have nothing to gain and everything to lose." Noted Sommer, "If that were a meaningful distinction, most public health research, which aims to prevent disease in the first place, would never be done," including the Salk polio vaccine.

Worried that the court's ruling could shut down many pediatrics studies and drive research dollars out of the state, Hopkins, Kennedy Krieger, University of Maryland Medical System, and the Association of American Universities in September asked the appeals court to modify its ruling, changing "any risk" to "minimal risk," the language used in federal regulations of human studies. In October, the court modified the language as requested, making it possible for many pediatrics studies to move forward.

But the court refused to back off from its reference to the infamous Tuskegee studies. --SD

Cancer Trial in India Draws Fire

A clinical trial of an anti-cancer drug in India has drawn the scrutiny of Johns Hopkins University officials after physicians in India raised questions about the manner in which the study was conducted.

The researcher was identified in a July 31, 2001, Baltimore Sun article as Ru Chih C. Huang; Huang has served on the biology faculty of Hopkins's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences since 1965. (Because of confidentiality policies, university administrators did not release Huang's name and will neither confirm nor deny her involvement.)

Conducted in 1999 and 2000, the clinical trial involved 26 cancer patients in Kerala, India. The study aimed to determine whether a chemical derived from the creosote plant could stop the growth of oral cancer.

In March, Hopkins officials learned that the principal investigator of the study had not obtained approval from a Hopkins institutional review board (IRB). The researcher assured administrators that the study protocol had been approved by appropriate authorities in India and that proper informed consent was obtained.

According to the Baltimore Sun article, Huang said she did not realize the university requires internal approval of experiments abroad. "I will never do it again in this way. But certainly I did not hurt the people in that country in any way, and I think that this will prove to be an effective anti-cancer drug," Huang is reported as saying.

In March, the university counseled that the Hopkins internal review should have been obtained and that a proposed follow-up study would have to go before a Hopkins IRB.

In mid-July, the Indian press reported allegations made by physicians at the Regional Cancer Center in Kerala that raised serious questions regarding how the cancer study was conducted. The reported allegations included concerns about whether proper informed consent had been secured, whether the drug had been properly screened for toxicity, and whether surgery or other conventional treatment had been unnecessarily delayed.

After the accounts surfaced in the press, Hopkins officials launched a preliminary inquiry which later confirmed that the cancer study had not been reviewed or approved by any of the university's IRBs.

The university convened an investigative panel "to conduct a formal investigation to more fully develop the facts." At press time, the investigation was not yet concluded.

During the course of the investigation, the faculty member in question has been directed by university officials to stop all follow-up work related to the study. --SD

North Addresses Nuclear Threat During MSE Symposium

"It's time to get a grip, to wake up to the fact that we've been manipulated by the media. These stories about people bringing in nukes in suitcases are about as likely to happen as a meteor striking [Shriver Hall]. In order to put a nuke in a suitcase, you'd need a W-88 warhead, the same warhead the Chinese stole from Los Alamos. The Chinese have a ton of money and intelligence and they still can't figure out how to use it. Do you really think bin Laden's gonna figure it out in a tent in Afghanistan?" scoffed Lt. Col. Oliver North on September 27 in the second talk of this year's student-run Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium. The symposium's original theme, "A Nation Divided: Politics and Power in the 21st Century," was changed to "A Nation United..." after the September 11 attacks. Those slated to speak included Washington Post writer Bob Woodward, civil rights activist Lani Guinier, and U.S. Senator Russ Feingold.

Addressing a Hidden Killer in South Africa

It is winter in Cape Town, South Africa, and a slight chill invades the August air. In the black township of Crossroads, just outside the city limits, the weak morning sunlight has yet to burn off a low-hanging haze. Men, women, and children wearing jackets and heavy sweaters gather in front of the local government-funded clinic waiting for it to open. If they are lucky, they will see a physician or nurse before the day ends. If not, they will go home and return tomorrow.

The clinic sits in the heart of the township, amid homes that range from one-room makeshift shacks with no electricity or running water to modest dwellings made of cinderblocks.

Cape Town residents wait to be seen at the clinic.
Photo by Allen Jefthas
This particular morning follows a day of rioting that took place near Crossroads. Gunfire erupted when hundreds of black South Africans protested the poor living conditions in an informal housing settlement. Police exchanged gunfire with protesters, and the incident snarled traffic for hours. Now, close to 24 hours later, most of the violence from the protest has subsided, but rubble still litters some streets and a few impromptu fires are still smoking.

On their way by car to the Crossroads township are nurse researcher Martha Hill, interim dean of Hopkins's School of Nursing, and physician Krisela Steyn, director of the Chronic Diseases Lifestyle Program at the South African Medical Research Council (MRC).

The two have joined forces to chip away at one of black South Africa's greatest health risks: cardiovascular disease. Hill has spent the past two weeks in Cape Town, where she is overseeing completion of the first leg of a study to control hypertension in black South Africans.

Nursing student Stacie Stender takes a patient's blood pressure.
Photo by Allen Jefthas
Next to AIDS, hypertension and cardiovascular disease are the biggest killers of South Africans. According to MRC researchers, about 10 percent of South Africans die each year from heart disease; that figure might be as high as 25 percent because of inaccurate reporting of deaths in black townships. More than 25 percent of South Africans have high blood pressure, and a lack of knowledge about the condition is particularly prevalent in the townships, where awareness about hypertension gets lost in the shadow of AIDS, which has hit South Africa harder than any other country in the world. One in nine South Africans now tests positive for HIV/AIDS.

Raising awareness about hypertension in hard-to-reach populations is nothing new for the energetic Hill. For more than 10 years she has researched ways of controlling hypertension in young, urban, African-American males. With colleagues from other divisions within Hopkins, Hill devised a model of personalized care using a team of nurse practitioners, physicians, and community health workers. The model, which aggressively tracks men with high blood pressure, succeeded in controlling the hypertension rates of almost 40 percent of a group of 309 African-American men in East Baltimore. With a grant from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health, Hill is working with MRC researchers to replicate the Baltimore hypertension study in three South African townships. As part of the School of Nursing's Global Health Promotion Research Program, Hill had three students assisting with the study. They spent the summer working in the Crossroads clinic, developing questionnaires that determine the barriers preventing black South Africans from controlling their hypertension.

"It's a real challenge," says Hill as she walks through the crowded Crossroads clinic. "If you ask people what is high blood pressure, they have many different ideas and don't always understand the lifestyle relationship."

Martha Hill and South African nurse researcher Thandi Puaone check out one of the city's popular grills, featuring fat-laden and salty meats.
Photo by Kate Pipkin
In a small room at the clinic, Hill watches closely as Hopkins nursing graduate student Stacie Stender measures the blood pressure of William Qomoyi. It is 175/90--well above the "normal" range of 140/80. Stender tests it again to be certain. Qomoyi claims that because he drinks a traditional beer brewed in the township, he does not have high blood pressure--a belief held by more than one patient. Stender makes arrangements for him to get a prescription for blood pressure medication, then hands him a loaf of bread as thanks for participating in the study and calls in the next patient. This man's blood pressure tops out at 225/110.

Hill and her students encountered other cultural beliefs besides the traditional beer "cure." Many residents of black townships are reluctant to have their height measured, since they think it means they are sick and being measured for a coffin. A particularly deadly belief among black South African women is the idea that obesity is a desired state; being large is associated with being dignified, well-off, AIDS-free, and healthy.

Hill is quick to point out that cultural practices are not the only barrier to controlling hypertension. Lifestyle changes are also to blame. After apartheid was abolished in 1994, many rural black South Africans moved to urban areas such as Cape Town in search of work and a better life. So far, city living has only given them a more sedentary lifestyle complete with poor diet. Vendors set up crude, homemade grills on street corners in the townships where they fry up fatty, salty cuts of meat to sell at a low cost. It is a popular meal among black South Africans with limited income.

The better quality of life sought by so many is proving elusive. According to nurse Zodwa Maxhama, who works in the Crossroads clinic, many older blacks watched their children die of AIDS and now have become the primary caregivers for their HIV-positive grandchildren. "They have a great deal of stress," says Maxhama. "They have no job, no food, and family problems." Against this backdrop, controlling hypertension often falls to the bottom of the priority list.

Notes Hill, "Often the people who have hypertension are the ones who are working and carrying the already-fragile economy. If the head of a household has a stroke, the toll in death and disability ends up having a socioeconomic impact. Prevention is the key."

Hill hopes the model she is trying to implement will make a difference, despite the overwhelming hypertension rates: "As nurses, we tend to be passionate about care, but unless you have good data to back it up, you will have little effect on changing practice." --Kate Pipkin

Art History
Of Sprites Earthy and Sublime

In 15th-century Italy, the sculptor Donatello reached back to antiquity for a decorative figure: a nude, winged young boy found on ancient Roman sarcophagi. The figure has lasted to this day as Cupid, the diminutive archer of love. But in the art of Renaissance Italy, says Charles Dempsey, Hopkins professor of art history, these figures, called putti, represented a much wider assortment of spirits. They were central to the melding of the classical and the vernacular that is at the heart of Dempsey's view of Renaissance art.

From the George Peabody Library collection, Spiritelli Harvesting the Grape, a woodcut from Francesco Colonna's book Hypnerotomachia Polifili (Venice, 1499). "The art of the Renaissance period has normally been characterized as having to do with the revival of antiquity," says Dempsey. "My argument is that in Italy there are two deep cultural traditions. One is indeed the ancient tradition. But the other is the vernacular tradition, which is the tradition of poetry and art created in native Italian, so to speak, from the time of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio." The putto, Dempsey says, is an example of such vernacular expression. "It does derive, to be sure, from ancient Roman sarcophagi, but at the same time it's defined by this term spiritello"--spirit, or sprite-- "which is a term that only has meaning in the native Italian. It doesn't have any Latin equivalent."

Dempsey makes his case in a new book, Inventing the Renaissance Putto (University of North Carolina Press, 2001). To the Renaissance audience for art, the putti were not just little gods of love, but spiritelli, the spirits that animate bodily functions, muddle the head after the consumption of wine, and cause involuntary reactions such as fright or sexual arousal.

Dempsey contends that many forms of 15th-century painting, including the putto, responded to everyday experience. "And everyday experience is something that's lived in terms of the vernacular, not in terms of some remote, classical past. The putto has a classical pedigree, but a vernacular name and meaning. The spiritelli are very deeply embedded in medieval and Renaissance physiological concepts. They refer to how the body works, how it processes sensations from outside. People in the 15th century had no concept of the circulation of blood, so that [the] pulse, which they could feel, was something generated by active spirits in the body."

A central element of Dempsey's book is a new reading of Botticelli's Mars and Venus. In the painting, a lovely, serene Venus reclines beside an all-but-naked Mars, who slumbers in what has most often been read as amorous, even postcoital, bliss. Completing the composition are four putti playing with Mars's lance and armor. Dempsey looks at this classical subject and sees not bliss, but "a nightmare of sexual obsession and domination, of a soul possessed and tormented, not just by erotic fantasies, but by the demons of Mars's own moral confusion." The putti, in this new reading of the painting, are not classical allusions to love, but vernacular representations of spirits of fright, the torment of nightmares.

Dempsey notes how, after Donatello first employed the device, it soon appeared throughout Renaissance art. "It spread faster than e-mail. It was amazing how quickly this was picked up. It was a successful and appealing invention, a device that worked because everybody understood it.

"And they're cute." --DK

Physician, Heal the System

Future physicians know they will face hurdles in their efforts to heal the sick: the high cost of prescription drugs, the lack of adequate health care coverage, and treatment barriers created by such issues as substance abuse, domestic violence, and poverty.

A new student-generated course at the Hopkins School of Medicine is meant to help first-year medical students learn ways to go beyond their role as caregivers-- to work as political activists in addressing the underlying weaknesses in providing medical care.

Illustration by Wesley Bedrosian "We hope to get them exposed to all different ways that a physician can be involved, not just in medicine, but more broadly speaking in health care, and to do that in a way that makes a difference," says Todd Varness, a fourth-year Hopkins medical student who helped create the course. "We want to catch them early when they have a lot of idealism. I saw a lot of my classmates come in with idealism, but unfortunately that can get beaten out of you over four years."

The Research-Based Health Activism class is being taught for the first time this fall. Through guest speakers, seminars, and case studies, a dozen medical students are learning to do database searches, conduct surveys, and work with the media. The goal: to develop a research question and protocol to pursue during their years at Hopkins.

One project, for example, could include surveying children for their responses to alcohol advertising, and writing a policy paper. Another might entail finding out why patients aren't making their doctor's appointments, and lobbying City Hall for better public transportation.

Varness, who has a master's in public health and plans to finish his medical degree in May, is helping manage the course with Paul Jung, a Hopkins Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar, and Richard Humphrey, Hopkins associate professor of medicine. The class is based on courses developed by Peter Lurie, a former faculty member at the University of Michigan and deputy director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group. Lurie will be one of the guest speakers.

Says Jung, "If anyone wants to get anything done in health care they have to understand politics. You can be the best diagnostician in the world, you could make a diagnosis from 20 feet away, but it will not help your patients if they can't get cheaper medicine." --JCS

New Efforts to Engineer Tissue Begin to Gel

One of the most intriguing bits of engineering in Clark Hall, the newest building on the Homewood campus, is a scaffold.

Not the wooden framework for the Georgian-style brick building, but the concept of a tiny scaffold of biodegradable polymers or other materials upon which researchers hope to build knee cartilage, liver tissue, a heart valve, or, someday, an entire beating human heart.

The three-story Clark Hall, which this fall started housing faculty from Hopkins's recently launched Whitaker Biomedical Engineering Institute, includes lab space for researchers tackling a relatively new field of science: tissue engineering. In particular, Hopkins scientists are looking at the interaction between the body's cells and the scaffold surfaces required for complex tissue to grow.

Jennifer Elisseeff and Kevin Yarema, both assistant professors of biomedical engineering in the Whiting School of Engineering, are suitemates--106A and 106B. Elisseeff is working on new biomaterials for scaffolds. Yarema considers himself a cell engineer. As Yarema notes: "You have to make the scaffolding more friendly to the cell or the cell more friendly to the scaffolding."

Jennifer Elisseeff and Kevin Yarema in the lobby of the new Clark Hall, below right.
Photo by Chris Hartlove
Tissue cells grown in a petri dish are usually little more than a thin film. So building effective scaffolds-- often biodegradable materials that would melt away as cells grow and divide--would allow the engineering of more complex organs or body parts. The scaffold could be molded in the shape of an ear, for example. In other advances, skin and cartilage are already being grown on scaffolds in the lab, and coral has been used as the internal structure on which to rebuild a man's thumb.

But questions among researchers at Hopkins and elsewhere remain numerous: Which is the best surface on which to grow skin or heart cells? How would the cells stick to the surface and begin to divide? How would the body take over, with a little help from chemical growth factors, and create new tissue nurtured with blood vessels?

Elisseeff, building on her earlier PhD research at MIT, is working on malleable scaffolds made up of cell-laced polymer hydrogels. The viscous gels, which have been described as a sort of "living glue," contain encapsulated cells that act as seed cells for new tissue growth. The hydrogel is hardened into a supportive scaffold through exposure to light, a process known as photopolymerization.

Hopkins biomedical engineers are looking at interaction between the body's cells and the scaffold surfaces required for complex tissue to grow. Doctors have already used polymer gels and photopolymerization to create coatings for artificial implants, to restore bone, and even for dental fillings. But one hurdle looms: The polymer gels must be exposed to light in an "open area," which means doctors are trying to implant the self-hardening material during surgery. The result: Gels exposed to certain temperatures harden too soon or in the wrong shape.

Elisseeff, after speaking with doctors encountering problems, theorized that photopolymerization could also work through layers of skin. That method would allow a surgeon to use arthroscopic surgery, injecting an unhardened hydrogel directly into the location, such as a knee, to help build new cartilage tissue. The less invasive method showed success in studies with lab mice at MIT. "We want to be able to give physicians more control to shine the light when they want and where they want," she says. Among other research goals at Hopkins, Elisseeff is testing ways to extract components from human cartilage tissue to create new biological-based hydrogels to build scaffolds even more compatible with living tissue.

Yarema, meanwhile, is focused on changing the tissue cells, "to make the cell work more compatibly with the scaffold," he says. One of his thrusts, based on his postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley, is exploring the molecular surface of the cell. He has focused specifically on sialic acid, a sugar on the surface of cells that's important in biological processes, including brain development.

Yarema and his fellow researchers at Berkeley added a variation of a different sugar, ManNAc, to cells in hopes of altering the molecular structure of sialic acid on the cells' surface, making the cells easier to target. When processed through the cells' biological pathways, the altered sugar did change sialic acid, introducing ketones, or chemical groups not usually found on the cell's surface. Yarema believes these new ketones could "provide a unique chemical handle on the cell's surface" poised to accept a targeted chemical link on the scaffold. At Hopkins, Yarema will test other modified sugars and look for ways to make the connection work in a way that could be used to build tissue.

The cell-to-scaffolding interaction is especially important when engineering new tissue from stem cells, the undifferentiated cells found in fetal tissue or adult human bone marrow. "We need to engineer surfaces that are optimum for stem cells to grow," says Murray Sachs, Hopkins director of the Whitaker BME Institute. "How do you create an environment where cells can differentiate into nerve cells or heart muscle cells or bone cells?"

The answers will likely come from various quarters. Sachs, Elisseeff, and others point out that tissue engineering is an edgy, interdisciplinary science. The field, which came into existence only a decade ago, brings together biologists, orthopedic surgeons, computer scientists, plastic surgeons, neurologists, cardiologists, stem cell researchers, and engineers who specialize in fields ranging from materials science to chemical engineering.

About a dozen Hopkins faculty are tackling research questions along these lines, including Leslie Tung, associate professor of biomedical engineering, whose work focuses in part on developing engineered heart muscles that contract, and Kam Leong, professor of biomedical engineering, who is synthesizing new biodegradable polymers that could be useful in scaffolds. Christopher Chen, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is delving into cells and their micro-environment, analyzing how cell-to-cell signaling and microfabricated surfaces influence cell proliferation and death.

Potential applications for such tissue engineering research hold out great promise: Perfect new skin grown for burn victims, new inner ear cells generated to restore hearing to the deaf, or nerve cells grown to reverse paralysis. And patients needing organ transplantations wouldn't be plagued by the scarce availability of donor organs, or the problems of infection or durability linked to artificial hearts and other organs made of metal, ceramics, or Dacron. --JCS

Historic Houses
A Palette for Life's Lessons

During the early 1800s, needlework was a primary means of educating girls in America: a hands-on way for them to learn geography, history, French, English, arithmetic, and other subjects. In Maryland and elsewhere, needlework also provided a parlor room palette on which to teach lessons about morality and domestic life.

At Hopkins's Homewood House Museum, examples of such work are being exhibited and discussed in a fall exhibit titled "Needles and Threads: Women's Handiwork, Men's Craftsmanship." The exhibit, which runs through November 25, also features mahogany work tables and other furniture crafted by Maryland cabinetmaker John Needles and his young male apprentices, as well as English embroidery scissors, pincushions, sewing boxes, and girls' needlework samplers.

One vividly preserved 1832 example by 11-year-old Caroline R. Smith of Maryland likely has never been displayed before, curators believe. (Many samplers are faded because vegetable dyes then used to color embroidery threads are highly sensitive to light.) Smith's neatly wrought, deeply colored sampler (shown at right) includes classically inspired motifs such as waves and laurel leaves, as well as a verse typical of the time period.

"Mourning embroideries became very popular," says Catherine Rogers Arthur, curator of Homewood House. "It is a sad reminder of how ever-present loss was in early 19th-century life. It was not uncommon for a girl of 11 years old to have lost siblings or a mother in childbirth. It was very present in their minds. And they put a lot of hope in the afterlife." --JCS

Catching Up with Greg Drozdek '95

Greg Drozdek '95 is once again uniting two worlds he knows well: the New York streets and reaching out to children.

Drozdek was featured in our February 1995 issue in "A Long Way from the Old Neighborhood," which described his experiences as a homeless 16-year-old in New York City. He managed to put himself through Catholic high school and eventually talked his way into Hopkins, where he played football and founded the Hopkins Student-Athlete Mentoring Program.

Today, Drozdek is continuing to help at-risk kids through the Stanton Street Settlement, a privately supported, non-profit learning center he founded in 1999 for children in New York's Lower East Side. He also teaches English at Manhattan's La Salle Academy and is completing a PhD in educational administration at New York University.

Drozdek patterned Stanton Street Settlement after the first American settlement house, Jane Addams's Hull House, which opened in Chicago in 1889. The idea, borrowed from England, was to provide education and social services to the urban poor. Drozdek had noticed an empty storefront, and in what he describes as

a "bells of St. Mary's moment," he conceived of a modern settlement house to serve neighborhood immigrant kids.

He enlisted help from other Hopkins alumni--many now serve on the settlement's board and as volunteers--and other donors. The settlement (

serves about 35 children, ages 4 to 13, providing after-school tutoring, a chess program, field trips, and cooking, computer, and fitness classes. Says Drozdek, "We're offering the extra programs that public schools have been forced to cut." --DK

In Memoriam
A Voice That Will Be Missed

Peter W. Jusczyk, a Hopkins psychology professor who was an internationally regarded pioneer in the study of infant language perception and speech development, died August 23 while attending a scientific meeting in California. He was 53.

Jusczyk's unexpected death stunned students and faculty in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, where he was known for the Infant Language Research Laboratory that he operated with his wife and fellow Hopkins researcher, Ann Marie Jusczyk. Through studies involving hundreds of babies, he and his colleagues showed infants are able to recognize and process sounds related to language at very young ages. (See "The Origins of Babble," Hopkins Magazine, February 1998.) In 1997 he published an influential book on the subject, The Discovery of Spoken Language.

Peter Jusczyk with some young friends
Photo by Jay Van Rensselaer
"Peter was passionate about everything he did, either in a professional context or for fun," says Greg Ball, psychology professor at the Krieger School and a friend of Jusczyk's. "I was always impressed by the breadth of his intellect. His thinking was influenced by ideas and findings from many fields, ranging from linguistics to neuroscience or even engineering." Among the many professional honors Jusczyk received was his election last year to the prestigious Society of Experimental Psychologists.

In 1999, Jusczyk and colleague Ruth Tincoff presented the first-ever evidence that infants as young as 6 months can associate words with meanings. The words with meanings were the crucial childhood words of "mama" and "dada."

"Most of the previous work on comprehension indicated it was 8 or 10 months of age when kids started to attach labels to particular objects," Jusczyk said at the time. "The difference here is the words name important social figures. This suggests that infants begin forming a lexicon with sound patterns linked directly to socially significant people, such as their parents."

Another aspect of Jusczyk's research focused on determining when infants were able to distinguish between sounds of their native language and other languages based on common sound patterns in their native tongue. He showed that this ability developed sometime between the sixth and the ninth month of infancy. --Michael Purdy

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