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Water, a jumping gene and Paul Beeson

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2007 - Winter


This past spring we heard from Ariane Kirtley, M.P.H. ’04, who grew up in Africa and returned there after her graduation. Our cover story—her account in words and photographs—describes the life of the Tuareg and Woodabe inhabitants of the Azawak, the remote and drought-stricken plains in Niger where life is a constant search for water. But Kirtley is not content with simply documenting living conditions there—she has also formed a foundation to help build wells in the region and save not only lives but a pastoral way of life as well.

Closer to home, Tian Xu, Ph.D., professor and vice chair of genetics, has found a faster and cheaper way of making knockout mice. It involves a transposon, a “jumping gene” from a moth that can be inserted into the mouse genome, and a complex process that allows the laws of genetics to run their course with a little tweaking from human hands. This first transposon to be effectively used in mammals allows scientists to knock out known genes and discover others previously unknown. Freelance writer Pat McCaffrey spent some time with Xu to learn how he hopes to use his technology to help scientists find the causes of disease on a grand scale.

Last August we learned of the passing of Paul B. Beeson, M.D., who served as chair of internal medicine from 1952 to 1965. During his tenure he hired new faculty, inspired his staff and residents and built the department into one of the best in the country. Renowned internationally as both a scientist and clinician, Beeson made fundamental contributions to the understanding of fevers and infectious diseases. Richard Rapport, M.D., author of Physician: The Life of Paul Beeson, has graciously allowed us to excerpt sections of his biography that deal with Beeson’s time at Yale.

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