Over on my Biology in Science Fiction blog I recently posted about an article by Tom Junod in men's magazine Esquire profiling UW scientist Mark Roth. The article was bad, in part because it painted a picture of Roth as an genius maverick who couldn't get a grants because his ideas were too brilliant, unlike the plodding never-had-a-fresh-idea scientists actually funded by the NIH. But it wasn't just that. It was the writing, which read like a transcribed conversation with a valley dude who was completely unfamiliar with science and the way it's practiced.
Now Carl Zimmer points out another article in the latest Esquire - this one by Lisa Taddeo - that's equally bad. There's the flip conversational tone and use of odd analogies*, and, as a bonus, "who'd believe this normal-looking woman is a scientist."
But now look here, a woman. She is a pretty lady of Pakistani heritage who highlights her soccer-mom layers, which you don't expect from a lab-worn doctor-lady. And she's got ideas. Wild ones. Hina Chaudhry believes she can do what the body can't: fix the dead parts.Highlighted layers and ideas? Amazing! And is the "soccer-mom" description a dig at her style?
It's a shame the writing is so bad, since Chaudhry's research sounds quite interesting. She's been studying the role of the cell-cycle regulating protein cyclin A2 in heart development.
From the Esquire article:
Chaudhry says it was women's intuition. The holy-shit solution. It came to her during a seminar at UPenn when she was twenty-nine. They were discussing fruit-fly genes. How the head segment knows it's going to form a head and how the tail segment knows it's going to be a tail. "I just had this sudden realization that heart cells don't divide after birth in any mammal. They divide in the embryo, but they stop after birth," she says. "So I thought, That's it! We have to go back and study the basics of why and when heart cells stop dividing." If they could do that -- figure out what causes heart-cell division to turn off -- then perhaps they could find a way to turn it back on.She's devised a method of introducing an expressed version of cyclin A2 into adult heart cells, which appears to allow the heart to recover from a heart attack. It's been successfully tested in rats and ultimately she hopes that the method can be used in humans.
Her idea was laughed at, at first. In part because she was young and a woman, she says. But now the medical world is sitting up, taking notes.An angel and "chosen one" - that's a lot to live up to. Heart attacks are a top killer here in the United States, so anything that improves the survival rate would be a significant achievement. I suspect, though, that Chaudhry's methodology is further from being a clinical reality than the article might lead you to believe.
Chaudhry was recruited to Mount Sinai's Cardiovascular Institute by the director of Mount Sinai Heart, Dr. Valentin Fuster, and the medical center's Cardiovascular Research Center director, Dr. Roger Hajjar. She calls them the two greatest visionaries in the cardiac world. Along with their chosen one, this bright many-schooled angel, they are going to make Mount Sinai the leading thinker in the heart world. "We've had no therapies to reverse heart failure, to make a diseased heart normal again," says Hajjar. "This therapy may finally do that."
* From the description of what happens during a heart attack.
"Suddenly, soldier, this part of your heart is dead, only it's still in your body, attached to the good section -- the 90210 ventricle -- and the good part is smirking, it's saying, "Come on, rebuild yourself, man!"Science articles rarely juxtapose a reference to a teen drama and a quote from an anthropomorphized internal organ in the same sentence (not to mention the gratuitous "soldier" reference), so this is very special.
Tags: Hina Chaudhry, women in science