Mary Carmichael

When The Body Attacks Itself

The immune system is what keeps most people's bodies healthy and free of disease, but for as many as 23 million Americans, it is a cause of disease, too. In autoimmune disorders, the system goes haywire, mistaking the body's own tissues for foreign invaders and destroying them.

A New Era Begins

Stem-cell research is divided into two major camps: one focused on cells from adults, the other on the controversial technique that destroys embryos. But important research published Sunday supports the idea of a third way, a new category of stem cells that are readily available, perhaps ethically trouble-free and possibly as powerful and flexible in function as their embryonic counterparts: "amniotic-fluid stem cells," found in both the placenta and the liquid that surrounds growing...

Stem Cells Are Where It's At

Seventeen years ago, Richard Burt, an immunologist at Northwestern University, had a crazy idea. What if he could press the "restart" button on his patients, destroying their faulty immune systems and building them new ones?

A Terrible Mystery

Thomas Insel spent years training as a psychiatrist in the 1970s, and in all that time he saw not one child with autism. In 1985, curiosity sent him searching; it took several phone calls to find a single patient.

The Writer Will See You Now

It's not an official medical report, and it won't help doctors treat the patient it's about, but Dr. Dena Rifkin's write-up tells a story that the dry clinical language of medicine never could. "There are startling moments that you don't forget," it begins, and clearly this was one of them—a night in which a young Rifkin, not even yet an M.D., stumbled out of sleep and into a pa­tient's room to find him soaked in blood. "The patient looked up at me, and opened his mouth as if to speak," she...

A Piece of the Puzzle

Earlier this week, scientists announced that they had for the first time pinpointed a common version of a gene that strongly increases the risk for autism.

Med-School Makeover

Dr. A. Scott Pearson's patient had a problem--two problems, actually, and only one of them seemed fixable by a surgeon. The patient, an elderly man, needed to have a tumor removed from his colon.

Science: Who's That Stunner?

Enlightened types say they're "self-aware" when they mean they're one with the universe. But for scientists who study animal behavior, the term "self-awareness" has always meant something much more down to earth.

Dolphins: 'Bob's in a Picture!'

According to scientific naming, the dolphin above is called Tursiops truncates, but it probably thinks it's named something more like "Bob." Marine biologists announced last week that dolphins compose their own unique signature whistles and clicks that identify them within their communities--or, put more simply, dolphins have names.Despite a wide range of pseudo-cultural and learning behaviors recently discovered across the animal kingdom, dolphins are one of only two animal species known to...

'Vintage' Bugs Return

Growing up in Peoria, Ill., in the 1950s, Lance Rodewald caught "measles and mumps and probably German measles," and though he doesn't remember suffering through any of them, his wife, Patricia, assures him they were all "absolutely miserable" experiences.

Physics: From Time To Time

Ronald Mallett, a University of Connecticut physics professor, thinks time travel is possible--and he's designed an experiment that could do it. Basically, he wants to "swirl" empty space the way you'd swirl coffee in a cup, using a laser as the stirrer.

Leading the Hunt For Cancer Genes

Thirty years ago, Joan Brugge was a bright college student on her way to a career in math. But when her sister developed a fatal brain tumor, she turned to the library and was stunned to find that there was "basically nothing known" about the cause of the illness.

Spring Fevers

A few weeks ago Ashley Ramirez was visiting a couple of close friends in Omaha, Neb., who were hospitalized following a car accident when she started running a fever and noticed a small lump on her neck.

Inventions: Taking to The Air

Look, in the sky--it's a bird! It's a plane! It's... a personal air vehicle? Whatever you call the new Transition, says its inventor, Carl Dietrich, just don't call it a flying car--even if it's the closest thing to one that exists.

Gut Flora? Great!

You may use antibacterial dish soap and wash your hands every time you sneeze, but Jeffrey Gordon wants you to know that you're crawling with germs. Gordon, the director of the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University in St.

The Gene Hunter

To call Dr. Tom Hudson modest would be putting it, well, modestly. One of the world's premier investigators of genetically linked disease, he discovered four years ago that DNA is inherited in chunks--the principle at the heart of the HapMap, the recently completed project describing millions of variations in the human genome.

Eggs, Lies, Stem Cells

Hwang Woo-Suk may be a scientist, but in South Korea, he's virtually a rock-and-roll star. The first researcher to extract stem cells from a cloned human embryo, Hwang has an Internet fan club (its women are especially enthusiastic) and a worldwide reputation.

Analyze These!

Considering how few people use higher math in their lives, or even remember much of it from high school, the popularity of books on chaos theory and number theory and higher-dimensional geometry is, well, a paradox.


A million lonely ballads notwithstanding, with time, the human heart can recover from an emotional wound. In medicine, however, the prognosis is often bleaker, and time only makes a physical injury worse.


Since the days of Homer, sailors have theorized about the signals of a coming storm (the presence of dogs, cormorants or whistling sailors) and the signals of calm waters (black cats, swallows or, oddly enough, naked women).


It is NASA's old reliable, the craft the agency depends on when it needs to prove something big. Discovery was the shuttle that delivered the Hubble telescope and 77-year-old John Glenn into space, and revived NASA as the first ship to launch (in 1988) after the Challenger explosion two years earlier.


The earth, says "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," is quite nondescript in the cosmic scheme of things. Its distinguishing feature: that it's "mostly harmless." If author Douglas Adams were alive he'd probably say the same thing about Gliese 876, a dwarf star in the constellation Aquarius that's only 2 percent as bright as the sun and until now hasn't attracted much attention.