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Misusing mice models
Not really doing anything
Recognizing women's work?
Miracles happen
Reality of the street
Working toward a solution

Misusing mice models

Your article glorifying the use of mice to study diseases and conditions they would never normally develop ["Of Mice and Medicine," September] touches on the inevitability of pain and death for these tiny animals — who are entirely excluded from federal animal protection laws — as well as on the difficulty of extrapolating research results to humans. But these issues were presented as mere bumps on the road of research, rather than reasons that experiments on mice are both unethical and, in most cases, inapplicable to disease treatment in humans.

Take just two examples cited in the article: Despite the funds poured into creating transgenic mice for the study of Parkinson's, the journal Nature reported [in August] that "in recent years, and especially for neurodegenerative diseases, mouse model results have seemed nearly useless." And, contrary to [oncology professor Drew] Pardoll's claim in your article that "the mouse has provided us with an excellent way to model cancer in a mammalian system," the former head of the National Cancer Institute summarized 25 years of cancer research by stating, "The history of cancer research has been a history of curing cancer in the mouse. We have cured mice of cancer for decades — and it simply didn't work in people."

At issue is not merely how the housing can be adjusted or the methods refined, as implied in your article, but the relevance of studies on mice altogether. I urge you to explore this issue objectively and thoroughly. The development of effective treatments for human disease, as well as the lives of hundreds of millions of animals, depends upon an unbiased examination of the facts.
Jessica Sandler, SPH '84
Norfolk, Virginia

The writer is the director of the Regulatory Testing Division of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Not really doing anything

I noted your statement that the magazine will begin using recycled paper ["Editor's Note," September]. It seems to fit in with the other rather meaningless JHU efforts highlighted in the September issue ["Green Idea! It Might Just Work"] that will have less substantive impact on the planet than making you all feel good with the illusion that you are "doing something."

If you really want to make a contribution, send the magazine only to recipients who actually want it — and want it enough to go to the not-so-great trouble of requesting it, whether by e-mail or otherwise. The resulting savings in paper, printing, postage, and energy would actually amount to something significant, as opposed to your feel-good gestures. But your lessened prestige and sense of importance engendered by the resulting much-lower circulation figures would no doubt far outweigh the gain to the environment, so I have no doubt that it ain't gonna happen.

Kind of like those at the Bloomberg School labs you mentioned who are all for "the environment," as long as it doesn't inconvenience them. And all those who absolutely must jet-set around the world on international travel for one reason or another.

You might also suggest to our Alumni Association colleagues that they forgo extracting the "more than" 30 bushels of ever scarcer Bay crabs to ship around the country for their festivities ["Alumni News and Notes," September]. After all, they seem to be almost as nonrenewable a resource as the energy whose use you purportedly scorn. And didn't you in the same issue tell us about the virtues of farmers' markets and their locally provisioned foodstuffs versus that which is shipped from far-off locations ["Market Research"]?

A final thought: Any chance of some note in the magazine of the scientists and others who don't buy into your "global warming" tripe?
Paul Berg
Springfield, Virginia

Recognizing women's work?

I find a significant difference between what [Kathleen Waters] Sander wrote ["A Pleasure to Be Bought," September] and what I remember being told when I entered the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. On the whole, I am inclined to believe what she wrote, but this is what I remember reading or hearing from the authorities: The Women's Building was indeed erected by contributions from women to the medical school. But the real impetus for those contributions, the work that went into obtaining them, came from University President [Daniel Coit] Gilman and others who pushed to raise the money. In addition, there was to be a strict limit on the number of women eligible for admission; specifically, 10 percent of the total student body of that entering class. That was the proportion in our class — seven of about 70. One died over the first summer off and was not replaced.

My memory may be at fault. But the above is how I recall we were told the medical school happened. I wonder what other members of the Class of 1948, or classes before or after us, recall about these events.
Avrum L. Katcher, Med '48
Flemington, New Jersey

Miracles happen

Regarding the letter on page 71 ["Not All Are Miracles," September]: Dr. Wenner finds it "grotesque" that some "locals [sic!] praised God for allowing three of four people to survive" while "20-odd people were killed." The terms "allowing to survive" and "were killed" beg questions. Suppose, for example, Wenner had phrased it that God "preserved three or four while 20-odd were allowed to die"? Perhaps there is a God who allows things to happen (allows "nature to take its course") but also sometimes intervenes and (temporarily) preserves some people from death. The term miracle arises from Latin miror, to wonder or marvel at; from Sanscrit smi, smile. Are we not to be permitted to marvel and smile when we find good? Is it irrational (or provincial) to attribute good to some agency without any necessity to attribute evil to that same agency?

Perhaps it takes faith to do so, but faith (as in a benevolent God) is not necessarily irrational. However, gratuitous derision of religious belief is irrational. To know that God is not benevolent, one would have to know everything! Actually, it would seem that one can smile at wonders without having to believe in any Higher Power, but if one wants to stay an unbeliever, smiling at wonders is a risky business.
James J. Hill, A&S '52, '64 (PhD)
Riderwood, Maryland

Reality of the street

Your article "Like him right there" [June] brought tears to my eyes and pain in my heart for those associated with the cold-blooded murder of Zachary Sowers. I applaud the extraordinary efforts of Dr. [Daniel] Webster and others at Johns Hopkins [who are] studying ways of stopping the root causes of such senseless violence perpetrated by inner city youth. Understandably, these kids, too, are victims and need help.

However, where were Sowers' rights to be capable of defending himself, and the rights of others yet to be brutalized? Against overwhelming odds, Sowers had no reasonable way of defending himself without possession of a firearm. That's the reality of the street, even if not politically correct. Yet in Maryland, carrying firearms is not allowed for most law-abiding citizens — and the criminals know it.

We can add this tragedy to the already overwhelming evidence arguing for our Maryland General Assembly to pass "right to carry" firearms legislation during the next legislative session. The time is long overdue.
E. Joseph Lamp, A&S '79 (MLA)
Arnold, Maryland

Working toward a solution

The magazine devoted a lot of space to the question of urban violence ["Urban Violence: Can We End the Epidemic?" June]. The big problem in Baltimore remains steady employment at reasonable pay and benefits for men. A response requires substantial investment to produce such a workforce.

Three years ago my husband required surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital twice within a nine-month period, so I had ample time to see what was going on in the hospital and the areas surrounding it increasingly being taken over for planned substantial enlargement of the hospital campus. Obviously, when in operation, the planned facilities will require substantial increase in the hospital workforce.

As I followed my husband through the myriad of "check-ins," each item of service requiring yet another form and registration, it dawned on me that there were no men "manning" this activity, and there appeared to be no men in clerk and secretarial-type jobs. I suggested to my husband's doctor that Hopkins should set up a program starting in the upper grades of Baltimore elementary schools and continuing through high school to identify kids who could, through Hopkins support, become Hopkins employees. This [would be] no easy program. It would take commitment and investment. But the benefits to Hopkins and Baltimore are potentially substantial.
Sue Golden Lerner
Jerusalem, Israel

Philip J. Leaf, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence, responds: "I could not agree more that employment opportunities and readiness to work constitute major challenges facing urban communities. Johns Hopkins Hospital has been recruiting community residents, including ex-offenders, and providing them with job and life skills as well as employment. Other projects include a Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute partnership to work with schools in East Baltimore, and potentially the creation of a new school; a medical student–run mentoring and tutoring program for students at Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School; and a Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence collaboration with the Mayor's Office and Baltimore City Public Schools to increase the assets and opportunities available to students and to effectively re-engage individuals who have dropped out of school."


"Of Mice and Medicine," our September story about research mice at Johns Hopkins, incorrectly stated the brand of food that mice on campus are fed. Harlan Teklad is the primary supplier of mouse feed to the university.

Also in September, an obituary for Victor McKusick incorrectly stated his graduation date. He graduated from the School of Medicine in 1946.

The magazine regrets the errors.

Return to November 2008 Table of Contents

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