tufts medical school

RECENT POSTS

State-Funded Lab At Harvard Medical Aims To Reinvent Drug Discovery

Jerry Lin and Sharon Wang at the not yet one-year-old Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. The two are studying the effects of cancer treatment drugs on the heart. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Jerry Lin and Sharon Wang at the not yet one-year-old Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. The two are studying the effects of cancer treatment drugs on the heart. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Jerry Lin makes a few adjustments on his microscope and grins.

“Wow, it’s beating,” Lin says as a white cell floating across an inky black background begins to pulse. “That’s cool.” A few colleagues, including Lin’s lab partner, Sharon Wang, murmur approvingly.

“We want to take a real-time video to look at the pattern of how cells beat over time,” Wang says, explaining this stage of the experiment.

Once Lin and Wang understand the morphology of these heart muscle cells, they’ll test how the cells respond to various cancer treatments.

“Later on, we can look at how that frequency of beating responds to different drugs,” Wang says.

The experiment is important, says lab director Peter Sorger, because heart problems can be a side effect of a drug that stops the spread of breast cancer.

“On the one hand, it’s a marvelous magic bullet,” Sorger says. “On the other hand, it does damage on its way in. So the purpose of these studies is to understand precisely why that happens.”

Sorger and his team at the Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology are focused on cancer and on analyzing the ways cancer drugs affect the whole body. They aim to reinvent the drug development process through this systems approach, by going much deeper than would scientists supervising a typical clinical trial and by establishing a new model of collaboration. Continue reading

Inspiring Words And Modern Hippocratic Oath For Doctors-To-Be

hippocrates

(Gouwenaar, Wikimedia Commons)

Tufts Medical School held its annual “White Coat” ceremony this weekend to induct some 200 new students into the profession — and yes, to give them the white coats that will mark them ever after as medical staff.

The event included a poetic speech, excerpted below, by Dr. Beth Lown, medical director of The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, and the students recited the “Modern Hippocratic Oath.”

“The what?” I asked, ever the last to know. “There’s a new oath?”

Turns out controversy has long swirled around the 2500-year-old oath, as Nova describes in a fascinating 2001 look here. Nova includes the full and quite pagan original text, beginning “I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant.”

It is a mix of eternal and utterly outdated pledges, and my eyes widened when I read that it includes a sentence relevant to the physician-assisted suicide measure on this November’s Massachusetts ballot: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.”

The modern version has this instead:

Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

The modern oath, which is now extremely widespread, was written in 1964 by the late Dr. Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts, and it exudes far more compassion, nuance and indeed humility than old Hippocrates. It includes: Continue reading