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Laura Kahn

Laura H. Kahn

Articles by Laura H. Kahn

8 July 2007

The end of vaccines?

Laura H. Kahn

Ever since Edward Jenner first scratched cowpox pus into the arm of an eight-year-old boy in an attempt to render him immune to smallpox in May 1796, there has been debate and controversy over the procedure. Vaccination, which Jenner derived from the Latin word "vaca" meaning "cow," was preceded by the practice of "variolation" in which dried pus from an individual recovering from smallpox was scratched into the arm of someone naïve to the disease--usually a child. "Variolus" means "pus-like material."

13 June 2007

Pathogens on a plane

Laura H. Kahn

A hollow tube 30,000 feet in the air filled with people sneezing, coughing, and talking while breathing recirculated air provides the perfect environment for disease transmission.

31 May 2007

The exodus of general medical physicians

Laura H. Kahn

One of the greatest challenges facing health care is figuring out how to assess the worth of thoughts. It is far easier to put a monetary value on a specific task such as a colonoscopy or cardiac catheterization than on the nebulous efforts of thinking and talking. This difference is reflected in how insurance companies reimburse physicians' services, as they typically pay physicians far more money to do surgeries than for spending time with patients and thinking about how to best diagnose, treat, and manage medical care.

20 May 2007

Bring back the Office of Technology Assessment

Laura H. Kahn

During an April 2007 speech at a Princeton University colloquium titled, "From Passion to Politics: What Moves People to Take Action," New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer admitted that the world changes more by technology than by politics. He added that emotions can obscure facts and that political discourse requires an agreed-upon set of facts before policy can be rationally discussed. Unfortunately, politicizing scientific facts has never been more prevalent.

6 May 2007

How the pet food scare affects global health

Laura H. Kahn

When a company decides to sell food on the international market (pet or otherwise), it better understand that everybody’s health is at stake.

26 April 2007

Mother Nature’s bioterrorism

Laura H. Kahn

Bioterrorists, in this case Mother Nature, couldn't have picked a better target against agriculture: honeybees. Cornell University's Roger Morse and Nicholas Calderone estimate that the value honeybees contribute to U.S. agriculture through pollination grew from $9.3 billion in 1989 to $14.6 billion in 2000. (See "The Value of Honeybees as Pollinators of U.S.

16 April 2007

The evolution and consequences of synthetic biology

Laura H. Kahn

In the 1970s, genetic engineering was the hot new technology in which DNA molecules from one organism could be spliced into another organism's DNA. Today, synthetic biology could likewise revolutionize our way of life. But synthetic biology is orders of magnitude beyond genetic engineering because it can create completely novel DNA sequences. By human "intelligent design," synthetic biologists could conceivably create new life-forms previously unknown to this planet.

1 April 2007

Establishing a code of conduct in the life sciences

Laura H. Kahn

A Hippocratic oath is merely lip service, rigorous ethical standards need to be developed to properly vet those pursuing a career in the life sciences.

13 March 2007

Animals: The world's best (and cheapest) biosensors

Laura H. Kahn

While policy makers fret over the obstacles in developing biosensor technology, the best and cheapest biosensors are already distributed globally but generally ignored: They're called animals. The United States has spent millions of dollars to develop biosensors that would detect bioterrorism or other deadly agents. But so far, the technology has not met expectations and questions have arisen as to whether additional spending is warranted for civilian applications.

4 March 2007

A dangerous biodefense path

Laura H. Kahn

The Bush administration claims its biological research initiative will help fight terrorism, but does this research violate the Biological Weapons Convention?

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