October 27, 2014

Saul Schanberg's Weird Results Changed the Way the World Treats Premature Babies

This week I read an article about others who gave their best, but it didn't seem to matter.  In fact, some thought that the tax-payer funded research was a waste of time and money.  The research they did seemed irrelevant to anyone until years later when their research started saving lives. 

In 1979, a scientist named Saul Schanberg was developing enzymes and growth hormones for babies.  To test them, he got funding to give them to laboratory rats-- baby rats.  In order to administer the drugs, they had to separate the baby rats from their mothers.  Inexplicably, all of the baby rats did not do well.  The 'control' group AND the groups given the drugs showed signs of 'failing to thrive.'  This was unexpected and Saul tried to figure out what was going wrong.  Saul realized that the problem was that they had taken the baby rats away from their mothers.  They struggled for a while trying to figure out how to keep the baby rats alive long enough to test the drugs on them.  Finally they noticed that rat moms lick their newborn babies a lot to groom them.  In order to simulate that licking, Saul rigged up wet paintbrushes to stroke the rat babies.  That was the missing link-- the babies all improved and their tests on the hormone and enzyme could resume. 

Because of this unexpected result, Saul learned more about the need for baby rats to be touched and massaged than he learned about the drugs he was testing.  Saul was intrigued enough by this result that he shifted his focus away from enzymes and growth hormones and toward the effects of touch in infant development.  Maybe he didn't need a drug to improve the growth and development of premature babies-- human touch may be the answer. 

After more research, they found that chemicals were released by the brain when baby rats were taken from their mothers that put them into an artificial hibernation.  That explained the lack of absorption of nutrients when fed.  It was necessary for their survival to not need food when their mother, the one who fed them, was absent.  Once the mother returned, the body went back to normal and they thrived again.  And researchers learned how to mimic the mother's return with touch that simulated licking, producing each effect.  If baby rats were in hibernation too long, it stunted their development or led to their death.   Saul theorized that the brain effects they found in rats would also hold for humans, because the basic neural and touch systems are the same.  Subsequent research proved that to be true.

In those days, premature babies and really sick babies were put in incubators and left alone.  Touch seemed to irritate them enough to cause breathing problems, so hospital workers didn't touch them.  They were warmed by lights, fed through tubes and only touched when nurses changed diapers.  In the late 1980's, doctors heard about Saul's research and began to hold and gently massage premature babies instead of leaving them alone in their incubators.  They found that carefully, gently massaged babies absorbed almost 50% more nutrition from the same amount of food, and that they developed faster mentally and in motor ability.  Massaged babies left the hospital 6 days earlier than the others.  Since then, hospitals all over the world have changed the way that they handle these at-risk babies.  Saul and others expanded their research into other groups of people with problems.  This led to better outcomes for depressed individuals, cancer patients and mentally ill teenagers.

Today Saul is known all over the world for his research.  The unintended problems he had with the baby mice became his research focus, leading to a change in the way the whole world treats at-risk newborn babies.  This helped save many lives in the process.

Often we set out to do something and have to deal with unforeseen problems.  Sometimes what we do doesn't seem to matter.  But we don't know if the problems might lead to a better solution to a bigger problem, as with Saul's research.  The key is using our problems for good and learning from them. 


Goleman, Daniel.  "The Experience of Touch:  Research Points to a Critical Role."  The New York Times, Feb 2, 1988.  http://www.nytimes.com/1988/02/02/science/the-experience-of-touch-research-points-to-a-critical-role.html

Kuhn, Cynthia M.  "Obituary of Saul M. Schanberg."  Neuropsychopharomacology (2010) 35, 2650.  http://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v35/n13/full/npp2010112a.html

O'Brien, Theresa.  "Researcher Posthumously Wins Golden Goose for Preemie Massage Research."  Examiner.com.  September 5, 2014.  http://www.examiner.com/article/researcher-posthumously-wins-golden-goose-for-preemie-massage-research

Ritter, Steve.  "Newscripts."  Chemical and Engineering News. October 13, 2014, p. 40.  Print.

Photo courtesy of Nature.com

October 8, 2014

Rose Marie Reid Makes Swimming Modestly Fashionable

Last weekend our family flew to Utah for BYU's Parent's weekend.  We have three children and one daughter in law attending Brigham Young University so we can truly claim to be uber parents!  One of the things we did while there was tour a special collection at the BYU library.  Among old books, I was surprised to see a women's swimsuit in the collection.  I learned that it was a relic of the 1950's and was made by a very interesting Mormon woman named Rose Marie Reid.

Rose Marie learned to sew expertly at a really young age as she grew up in Utah.  She worked at the family grocery store which helped her learn entrepreneurial skills.  With her marriage in 1922 she moved to Canada.  Her husband coached swimmers and complained to her that his swimsuit was heavy and bothered him.  Like most swimsuits, his was made of wool!  Thick, absorbent and heavy when wet, like a sweater!  Men and women wore one piece sleeveless tank tops sewn to boxers for swimming-- and they were shapeless, ugly and heavy when wet.  With a different idea, Rose Marie took an old twill jacket and cut it up, making shorts for him that laced up on the sides for a good fit.  He loved them!

He asked her to make another men's suit and two women's suits for his competitive swimmers.  They modeled them for a local department store, which ordered several dozen of each to sell.  Rose Marie was flabbergasted.  She didn't want to start a business, just make a few suits.  She asked local women to sew them and filled the orders, and she was in business as 'Reid Holiday Togs.'  She refined her swimsuits to fit all body types and flattered all women.  This was such a difference from the shapeless tank shorts that women loved them.  Demand continued to outstrip what she could supply and Rose Marie kept expanding.  When she made more money than her husband, who was still coaching swimmers, the marriage faltered.  After the divorce, she moved to California with her three kids.  The demand for her swimsuits was the greatest in Los Angeles.  She renamed the business 'Rose Marie Reid' and got more creative in her designs.  Her biggest boosts to business came when Hollywood movie stars wore her swimsuits and spoke of them glowingly. 

The 1950's were Rose Marie's biggest years in business.  In 1951 Life Magazine praised her designs and the most revolutionary suit.  She was named Woman of the Year in 1955 by the Los Angeles times and Designer of the Year by Sports Illustrated and the American Sportswear Designer award.  Even though she was a single mom, she churned out design after design and seamstresses sewed like mad to keep up with orders.  At one point, they were making 10,000 swimsuits a day!  Other companies, seeing the new trends Rose Marie was starting, copied her designs.  One company owner bragged that they all copied her designs because if they didn't, they would be out of business.  Brazenly, one even named one of their swimsuits 'Rose Marie.'  This just prompted Rose Marie to be more creative with her next design.

Rose Marie wanted to help when the Los Angeles temple was being built.  In those days, members paid money into building funds to build churches and temples.  Rose Marie designed a specific swimsuit for the purpose of fundraising for the temple.  It was white with sequins sewn in patterns all over it.  She made the suits up and had the sequins sewn on by Relief Society sisters, then sold with all profits going toward the temple fund.  She raised $100,000 for the fund this way (which would be about a million dollars today.)  THIS is the swimsuit I saw at the BYU library.  Awesome!
In the 1960's, bikinis became popular.  Rose Marie built her company on the principles of the Gospel and refused to design immodest designs.  Her company had non-members on the board and they insisted that she follow the trends.  Rose Marie refused and left the company that she founded so many years before.  With her departure, the company became just like any other and slowly failed. 
Rose Marie held onto her values although she could have compromised in other ways as well.  Once she was offered $250,000 to appear on the back cover of Life Magazine.  The catch-- she would have to say she smoked Camel cigarettes and appear with a lit cigarette in her hand.  She refused, although she could have used the money at the time.   

She also shared the gospel with all of her associates, serving as a set-apart missionary for over 20 years.  She helped write pamphlets for the church that targeted the Jewish community, as she was good friends with several Jews and knew how to relate the gospel to them.  And she donated lots of money over the years to BYU. 

I admire Rose Marie because she stood firm to her values regardless of the pressure she felt in her business and social life.  In spite of her hardships, she valued her family and did her best with her situations.  And I love her designs, which help women be modest and yet fashionable.  Her designs are making a comeback today as modest values return.  She set a great example for me.

For more information, see:
Ainsworth, April and Michelle Brisendine; "Rose Marie Reid: Vingate Designer Bios," www.vintagevixen.blogspot.com, August 27, 2011.

Peterson, Roger K and Carole Reid Burr.  "A Genius for Beauty:  Rose Marie Reid."  Mormons and Popular Culture.  ed. James Michael Hunter.  pp. 213-228.  

Smith, Julie M.  "Rose Marie Reid."  Times and Seasons, 12 September 2006.  www.timesandseasons.org.

Walford, Jonathan.  "Canadian Fashion Connections-- Rose Marie Reid."  Jonathan Walford's Blog.  December 3, 2010.  http://kickshawproductions.com/blog/

Wikipedia.com, "Rose Marie Reid."

Photo courtesy of moviestarmakover.com