Health & Medicine
The Museum's collections of medical science artifacts represent nearly all aspects of health and medical practice. Highlights include early X-ray apparatuses, such as one of Wilhelm Roentgen's tubes, penicillin mold from Alexander Fleming’s experiments, and Jonas Salk's original polio vaccine. More recent acquisitions include the first artificial heart implanted in a human, the earliest genetically engineered drugs, and materials related to David, the "Bubble Boy." Other artifacts range from artificial limbs and implant devices to bloodletting and dental instruments, beauty products, and veterinary equipment. The contents of a medieval apothecary shop and an 1890s drugstore form part of the collections, along with patent and alternative medicines. The collections also document the many differing perspectives on health and medical issues, from patients, family members, doctors, nurses, medical students, and out-of-the-mainstream health practitioners.
"Health & Medicine - Overview" showing 4108 items.
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- Description (Brief)
- A blood cell separator, or apheresis machine, is a piece of medical equipment used to separate out one component of the blood while returning the rest to the patient’s body. Doctors used this particular machine to remove white blood cells from patient Ashanti DeSilva for the first human gene therapy treatment approved by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Gene therapy refers to a kind of genetic engineering whereby sections of DNA (genes) are introduced into cells in order to treat disease.
- Ashanti, four years old at the time of her treatment in September 1990, suffered from a genetic disorder known as ADA deficiency (also known as ADA-SCID or “bubble boy” syndrome), which led to her having a compromised immune system which left her extremely vulnerable to infection. Though she was receiving medicine to treat her disease, a team of doctors at NIH (Dr. W. French Anderson, Dr. Michael Blaese, and Dr. Kenneth Culver) thought they might be able to alleviate her condition by “fixing” some of her cells with new genes.
- To do this, they used the apheresis machine to remove some of her white blood cells. Using a modified mouse virus, the doctors then introduced working copies of the ADA gene into the removed white blood cells. The modified cells were grown for a time in the lab and were then injected back into Ashanti’s blood. Due to ethical concerns, however, doctors continued to treat Ashanti with her previous medication, meaning it was not possible to tell if the gene therapy worked or if she was simply staying healthy due to the medicine. While the treatment did not “cure” her, doctors were able to reduce the amounts of medication they gave her with no resulting decline in her health, suggesting that the new genes were indeed functioning in her body.
- Accession File
- “Human Gene Therapy Debuts at NIH.” Thompson, Larry. Washington Post. 15 September 1990. p.A1.
- “Gene Implant Therapy Is Backed For Children with Rare Disease.” Angier, Natalie. New York Times. 8 March 1990. p. A1.
- “Success Stories.” Jaroff, Leon. Time. 11 January 1999.
- “Scientists Report First Success of ‘Gene Therapy.’” Weiss, Rick. Washington Post. 20 October 1995. p. A1.
- “Hope for Gene Therapy.” PBS. http://www.pbs.org/saf/1202/features/genetherapy.htm
- “T Lymphocyte-Directed Gene Therapy for ADA SCID: Intitial trial Results After 4 Years.” R. Michael Blaese et al. Science. Vol. 270, No. 5235. 20 October 1995. p.475.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- ca 1980
- Haemonetics Corporation
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center