Connie Mulligan (University of Florida)
A host of genetic and environmental factors, including sociocultural influences, impact complex phenotypes in humans. Based on this definition, complex phenotypes include complex diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and mental illness, as well as more broadly defined conditions such as stress and racial health disparities. My research takes a uniquely anthropological perspective and integrates biological and cultural factors to examine human health and disease. Specifically, I use genetic, epigenetic, biological and cultural data to investigate a diverse set of complex phenotypes. I’m interested in conditions with a stress component since stress is highly prevalent in our society and has many different facets, including genetic, biological, cultural and psychological aspects. I’m interested in racial health disparities since they, too, are prevalent in our society and have both genetic and environmental components. Epigenetic modifications may also play a role in complex phenotypes, possibly with an evolutionary component, by altering gene expression in response to events that happen during one’s lifetime. I’ll discuss two projects in my lab that 1) examine the genetic and cultural risk factors for hypertension in African Americans living in Tallahassee, FL and 2) investigate an epigenetic mechanism to mediate the effect of maternal stress on maternal and infant health in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Marcia Inhorn (Yale)
Dr. Inhorn will discuss changing expectations of manhood across the region, including men’s desires for love, conjugal commitment, and fatherhood. Dr. Inhorn will highlight the high rates of male infertility across the region, and men’s desires for the latest fertility technologies and treatments.
* Co-sponsored by the Middle East Center
Puneet Chawla Sahota (Penn Post-Doc)
10/3/2013 *in Rm. 345
This presentation will examine how competing desires shaped the multi-faceted relationship between a Southwestern Native American community and biomedical/genetics research. Tribal members navigated tensions between their desire for a solution to the diabetes epidemic versus a desire to maintain the integrity of community “traditions.” Tribal members reacted in divergent ways to previous research studies reporting that Native Americans had genetic risk factors for diabetes. Some interviewees felt fatalistic about developing diabetes as a result, while others were motivated to try to prevent the disease. Community members who had participated in past medical/genetics research studies viewed these studies as a critical source of health care, particularly for diabetes prevention and management. However, community members who identified as “traditional people” also commonly wanted biological specimens collected for research to be returned and/or disposed of in a ceremonial manner. During the fieldwork period, the tribal community formalized its unique partnership with a genetics research institute through a contract stipulating shared intellectual property rights for the tribe and the institute. Through taking control of biological specimens/data and research more broadly, tribal members are tightening the boundaries around their community and seeking to maintain its physical and cultural integrity.