Media monitor

Research proposed by Irving Weissman, MD, appeared in a New York Times Magazine article taking a broad look at the fine line separating mice from men.

Weissman, the Karel and Avice Beekhuis Professor of Cancer Biology, MD, has suggested that creating mice with human brain cells could help researchers hoping to understand brain disease. The story explained how Weissman turned to Henry Greely, JD, a law professor and faculty member of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, to lead a panel that would review his research proposal.

According to the magazine, Greely's group recommended a series of checkpoints if the work is to go forward, and Greely remarked on the "nontrivial chance of conferring significant aspects of humanness on the nonhuman organism." William Hurlbut, PhD, consulting professor of human biology and a member of President Bush's Council on Bioethics, cautioned that a "squirm threshold" exists for animals that appear or act too human.;position= (registration required)

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It's no joke: Laughter is powerful medicine.

In the April 10 issue of the Washington Post, William Fry, MD, clinical associate professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, discussed how humor therapy can help physically and emotionally: it exercises the lungs and heart and raises endorphins, the body's feel-good hormones.

"A belly laugh is internal jogging," Fry said. Laughing, he continued, involves "a great deal of physical exercise and muscular behavior—15 facial muscles plus dozens of others all over your body that flex and relax. Your pulse and respiration increase, oxygenating the blood."

The article also notes that laughing may even help shed pounds. (registration required)

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Could your doctor double as your shaman?

The April 8 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that recent surveys show many patients want their physicians to address spirituality. Ninety-four percent of patients responded that if they were seriously ill, with the possibility of dying, they would want their physician to address spiritual beliefs.

"Just as culture can influence the reaction of an individual to a health challenge, so can spirituality and religion," Dean Philip Pizzo was quoted saying in the story.

The medical school, Pizzo added, has a class, "Spirituality and Meaning in Medicine," but he noted that it is "absolutely not the intent of these classes to engage physicians in becoming spiritual or religious healers."