New Orleans area higher education briefs for July 22, 2013

Newcomb pottery
on Smithsonian tour

Newcomb Art Gallery at Tulane University is partnering with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service to present the largest, most comprehensive collection of Newcomb arts and crafts to tour the country in nearly three decades.

The show, “Women, Art and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise,” will showcase more than 130 pieces of the pottery from Oct. 3 to March 9, at Newcomb Art Gallery before launching a national tour.

Newcomb ceramics are considered some of the most significant expressions of American art pottery of the 20th century. The exhibition will feature th

e iconic pottery as well as lesser known textiles, metalwork, jewelry, bookbinding and works on paper.

The Newcomb Pottery enterprise, in existence from 1895 to 1940, was established as an educational experiment of H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, Tulane University’s former women’s college. The quasi-commercial venture offered an opportunity for the women to support themselves financially during and after their training as artists.

Inspired by the flora and fauna of the Gulf South, the pieces represent 45 years of achievement in decorative arts. The exhibit is supported by grants from the Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works, which were matched by supporters of Newcomb Art Gallery.

LSUHSC identifies infection risk factors

James Diaz, professor of public health and preventive medicine and program director of the Environmental/Occupational Health Sciences Program at the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Public Health, analyzed cases of a parasitic lung infection and found new modes of transmission and associated behaviors, identifying new groups of people at risk.

Diaz hopes to raise the index of suspicion among medical professionals so non-traditional patients and those not exhibiting all symptoms but who are at risk can be diagnosed and treated to avoid potentially life-threatening lung or brain complications.

Among the organisms that can harbor the Paragonimus parasite are freshwater Asian crabs as well as native U.S. crawfish. Most cases of infection are reported from Asia or in those who have recently traveled to or immigrated from a region where the parasite is prevalent.

However, these days Asian crabs are being served far from home and in new ways. The parasitic infection, paragonimiasis, can occur when the crabs are eaten raw in sushi bars or alcohol-pickled, called drunken crabs, in martinis.

The one indigenous paragonimus species can transmit infection through undercooked mudbugs at a crawfish boil and through exposure while floating, paddling, canoeing or camping on waterways and in areas where crawfish live.

Although some people can remain asymptomatic for prolonged periods, this parasitic infection can produce symptoms ranging from fever, recurrent cough and night sweats, mimicking tuberculosis, to bloody cough, pleurisy and pneumonia. It can cause headaches, seizures, stiff neck and loss of vision. It can also result in death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration now advise cooking or boiling crawfish to reach an internal temperature of 145° F. before eating.

Study probes cancer link, inflammation

Yan Cui, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology, immunology and parasitology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans and the LSUHSC Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center, has been awarded a $1.5 million grant over five years by the National Cancer Institute to study the role of chronic inflammation in the development and progression of cancer.

Tumor suppressor protein 53, or p53, is a crucial molecule that is known to prevent cancer by either directly killing cancer cells or by stopping cancer cells from multiplying. The loss of p53 function resulting from genetic changes is detected in 50 percent of tumors and is considered to be one of the leading causes of cancer.

The grant award is based upon published studies performed in Dr. Cui’s laboratory, one of which was chronicled as a cover story in the March 15 issue of Cancer Research.

These studies demonstrated that a lack of functional p53 in tumor-associated stromal cells, as well as some of the immune cells, leads to an inflammatory microenvironment that suppresses the body’s immune system to fight the cancer, increases the number of stromal cells infiltrating the tumor, and promotes blood vessel formation to nourish the tumor leading to its accelerated growth.

According to Dr. Cui, the newly funded project will further investigate whether hindering p53 causes chronic inflammation that creates an environment conducive for cancer formation, growth and metastasis.

Free women of color mystery unraveled

The fable of the tragic mulatto is a familiar New Orleans story: A beautiful, young woman of color disdains marriage to a man of her own racial background. Her mother coerces her to form an illicit relationship with a wealthy white man who will support her in style.

Such stories, embedded in narrative accounts by historians, novelists, playwrights and travel writers since the early 19th century, are perpetuating a myth, says Emily Clark, Clement Chambers Benenson Professor of American Colonial History and associate professor of history at Tulane University.

According to Clark, author of “The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World” (University of North Carolina Press, 2013), the myth of the “lascivious, seductive quadroon” serves a purpose, presenting a stark contrast to the “respectability of white womanhood.”

Clark has discovered through painstaking research into archives of early New Orleans, especially its matrimonial and baptismal records from the 1730s to 1830s, that facts do not bear out the myth. In reality, “by the 1820s, a free woman of color of New Orleans ancestry was as likely to marry as a white woman.”

Clark will be giving a talk about her book on Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Alumni House.

Associate to speak
at cancer meeting

Edward Trapido, associate dean for research and professor and Wendell H. Gauthier Chair of Cancer Epidemiology at LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health, gave an invited talk on “Public Health Issues Following the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill,” at the 2013 National Cancer Institute Directors Meeting in Lyon, France.

The meeting, held by the International Prevention Research Institute, included NCI Directors and researchers from Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East and Europe.

Trapido, who is sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to study women and their children in the seven southeast parishes of Louisiana most affected by the spill, talked about the early physical, social and mental health outcomes reported by the women and explain the need for long-term follow-up.

He reported results on associations between exposure levels and experiencing worse health after the spill, as well as on public health issues related to resilience and recovery, health communications, economic issues, environmental justice, and policy issues.

Compiled by
the New Orleans bureau