Research removes a key barrier to large-scale manufacture of low-cost, printable perovskite solar cells
February 16, 2017
University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
A new innovation could make printing solar cells as easy and inexpensive as printing a newspaper. Researchers have cleared a critical manufacturing hurdle in the development of a relatively new class of solar devices called perovskite solar cells. This alternative solar technology could lead to low-cost, printable solar panels capable of turning nearly any surface into a power generator.
A U of T Engineering innovation could make printing solar cells as easy and inexpensive as printing a newspaper. Dr. Hairen Tan and his team have cleared a critical manufacturing hurdle in the development of a relatively new class of solar devices called perovskite solar cells. This alternative solar technology could lead to low-cost, printable solar panels capable of turning nearly any surface into a power generator.
“Economies of scale have greatly reduced the cost of silicon manufacturing,” said Professor Ted Sargent, an expert in emerging solar technologies and the Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology. “Perovskite solar cells can enable us to use techniques already established in the printing industry to produce solar cells at very low cost. Potentially, perovskites and silicon cells can be married to improve efficiency further, but only with advances in low-temperature processes.”
Today, virtually all commercial solar cells are made from thin slices of crystalline silicon which must be processed to a very high purity. It’s an energy-intensive process, requiring temperatures higher than 1,000 degrees Celsius and large amounts of hazardous solvents.
In contrast, perovskite solar cells depend on a layer of tiny crystals — each about 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair — made of low-cost, light-sensitive materials. Because the perovskite raw materials can be mixed into a liquid to form a kind of ‘solar ink’, they could be printed onto glass, plastic or other materials using a simple inkjet printing process.
But, until now, there’s been a catch: in order to generate electricity, electrons excited by solar energy must be extracted from the crystals so they can flow through a circuit. That extraction happens in a special layer called the electron selective layer, or ESL. The difficulty of manufacturing a good ESL has been one of the key challenges holding back the development of perovskite solar cell devices.
“The most effective materials for making ESLs start as a powder and have to be baked at high temperatures, above 500 degrees Celsius,” said Tan. “You can’t put that on top of a sheet of flexible plastic or on a fully fabricated silicon cell — it will just melt.”
Tan and his colleagues developed a new chemical reaction than enables them to grow an ESL made of nanoparticles in solution, directly on top of the electrode. While heat is still required, the process always stays below 150 degrees C, much lower than the melting point of many plastics.
The new nanoparticles are coated with a layer of chlorine atoms, which helps them bind to the perovskite layer on top — this strong binding allows for efficient extraction of electrons. In a paper recently published in Science, Tan and his colleagues report the efficiency of solar cells made using the new method at 20.1 per cent.
“This is the best ever reported for low-temperature processing techniques,” said Tan. He adds that perovskite solar cells using the older, high-temperature method are only marginally better at 22.1 per cent, and even the best silicon solar cells can only reach 26.3 per cent.
Another advantage is stability. Many perovskite solar cells experience a severe drop in performance after only a few hours, but Tan’s cells retained more than 90 per cent of their efficiency even after 500 hours of use. “I think our new technique paves the way toward solving this problem,” said Tan, who undertook this work as part of a Rubicon Fellowship.
“The Toronto team’s computational studies beautifully explain the role of the newly developed electron-selective layer. The work illustrates the rapidly-advancing contribution that computational materials science is making towards rational, next-generation energy devices,” said Professor Alan Aspuru-Guzik, an expert on computational materials science in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, who was not involved in the work.
“To augment the best silicon solar cells, next-generation thin-film technologies need to be process-compatible with a finished cell. This entails modest processing temperatures such as those in the Toronto group’s advance reported in Science,” said Professor Luping Yu of the University of Chicago’s Department of Chemistry. Yu is an expert on solution-processed solar cells and was not involved in the work.
Keeping cool during the manufacturing process opens up a world of possibilities for applications of perovskite solar cells, from smartphone covers that provide charging capabilities to solar-active tinted windows that offset building energy use. In the nearer term, Tan’s technology could be used in tandem with conventional solar cells.
“With our low-temperature process, we could coat our perovskite cells directly on top of silicon without damaging the underlying material,” said Tan. “If a hybrid perovskite-silicon cell can push the efficiency up to 30 per cent or higher, it makes solar power a much better economic proposition.”
Materials provided by University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
- Hairen Tan, Ankit Jain, Oleksandr Voznyy, Xinzheng Lan, F. Pelayo García de Arquer, James Z. Fan, Rafael Quintero-Bermudez, Mingjian Yuan, Bo Zhang, Yicheng Zhao, Fengjia Fan, Peicheng Li, Li Na Quan, Yongbiao Zhao, Zheng-Hong Lu, Zhenyu Yang, Sjoerd Hoogland, Edward H. Sargent. Efficient and stable solution-processed planar perovskite solar cells via contact passivation. Science, 2017; eaai9081 DOI: 10.1126/science.aai9081
Source: University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. “Printable solar cells just got a little closer: Research removes a key barrier to large-scale manufacture of low-cost, printable perovskite solar cells.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170216142800.htm>.
Researchers achieve protection of up to 100 percent using fully viable malaria parasites
February 15, 2017
German Center for Infection Research
Researchers have demonstrated in a clinical trial that a new vaccine for malaria called Sanaria® PfSPZ-CVac has been up to 100 percent effective when assessed at 10 weeks after last dose of vaccine. For the trial, scientists used malaria parasites provided by Sanaria.
University of Tübingen researchers in collaboration with the biotech company Sanaria Inc. have demonstrated in a clinical trial that a new vaccine for malaria called Sanaria® PfSPZ-CVac has been up to 100 percent effective when assessed at 10 weeks after last dose of vaccine. For the trial, Pro-fessor Peter Kremsner and Dr. Benjamin Mordmüller of the Institute of Tropical Medicine and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) used malaria parasites provided by Sanaria. The vac-cine incorporated fully viable — not weakened or otherwise inactivated — malaria pathogens together with the medication to combat them. Their research results have been published in the latest edition of Nature.
Malaria parasites are transmitted by the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes. The Plasmodium falciparum parasite is responsible for most malaria infections and almost all deaths caused by the disease worldwide. Most of the previous vaccines which have been tried involved the use of individual molecules found in the pathogen. However, they were unable to provide sufficient immunity to the disease. The Tuebingen study involved 67 healthy adult test persons, none of whom had previously had malaria. The best immune response was shown in a group of nine test persons who received the highest dose of the vaccine three times at four-week intervals. At the end of the trial, all nine of these individuals had 100 percent protection from the disease.
“That protection was probably caused by specific T-lymphocytes and antibody responses to the parasites in the liver,” Professor Peter Kremsner explained. The researchers analyzed the bodies’ immune reactions and identified protein patterns which will make it possible to further improve malaria vaccines, Kremsner added. The researchers injected live malaria parasites into the test subjects, at the same time preventing the development of the disease by adding chloroquine — which has been used to treat malaria for many years. This enabled the researchers to exploit the behavior of the parasites and the properties of chloroquine.
Once the person is infected, the Plasmodium falciparum parasite migrates to the liver to reproduce. During its incubation period there, the human immune system could respond; but at this stage, the pathogen does not make the person sick. On top of that, chloroquine does not take effect in the liver — so it is unable to prevent the parasite from reproducing. Malaria only breaks out when the pathogen leaves the liver, entering the bloodstream and going into the red corpuscles, where it continues to reproduce and spread. As soon as the pathogen enters the bloodstream, however, it can be killed by chloroquine — and the disease cannot break out.
“By vaccinating with a live, fully active pathogen, it seems clear that we were able to set of a very strong immune response,” said study leader Benjamin Mordmueller, “Additionally, all the data we have so far indicate that what we have here is relatively stable, long-lasting protection.” In the group of test persons who demonstrated 100 percent protection after receiving a high dose three times, Mordmueller said, the protection was reliably still in place after ten weeks — and remained measurable for even longer. He added that the new vaccine showed no adverse effects on the test persons. The next step is to further test the vaccine’s effectiveness over several years in a clinical study in Gabon funded by DZIF. Malaria is one of the biggest health threats in the African nation. The University of Tuebingen has worked with the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in the Gabonese town of Lambaréné and with the neighboring research institute, the Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné, for many years.
Malaria is one of the deadliest infectious diseases worldwide. The World Health Organization reports that some 214 million people became infected with malaria in the year 2015 alone. Approximately 438,000 died of the disease. Around 90 percent of those malaria deaths were in Africa. Nearly three-quarters of those who succumb to the disease are children under five. The search for a vaccine has been going on for more than a century. An effective vaccine would make it easier to control malaria; vaccination campaigns could be conducted in severely affected areas to eliminate the pathogen. Such a vaccine could also help to stop the spread of resistance to the treatment, and to better protect travelers.
Materials provided by German Center for Infection Research. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
- Benjamin Mordmüller, Güzin Surat, Heimo Lagler, Sumana Chakravarty, Andrew S. Ishizuka, Albert Lalremruata, Markus Gmeiner, Joseph J. Campo, Meral Esen, Adam J. Ruben, Jana Held, Carlos Lamsfus Calle, Juliana B. Mengue, Tamirat Gebru, Javier Ibáñez, Mihály Sulyok, Eric R. James, Peter F. Billingsley, KC Natasha, Anita Manoj, Tooba Murshedkar, Anusha Gunasekera, Abraham G. Eappen, Tao Li, Richard E. Stafford, Minglin Li, Phil L. Felgner, Robert A. Seder, Thomas L. Richie, B. Kim Lee Sim, Stephen L. Hoffman, Peter G. Kremsner. Sterile protection against human malaria by chemoattenuated PfSPZ vaccine. Nature, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nature21060
Source: German Center for Infection Research. “New malaria vaccine effective in clinical trial: Researchers achieve protection of up to 100 percent using fully viable malaria parasites.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170215131606.htm>.
February 14, 2017
University of Maryland School of Medicine
For hundreds of millions of years, ticks have survived on Earth by sucking blood from their victims for days, often leaving behind terrible diseases as a thank-you note. But no one has ever looked at why ticks, themselves, are able to survive while harboring bacteria, viruses and parasites. Now, for the first time, scientists have decoded how the ingenious tick immune system fights a myriad of microbes.
Everyone agrees that ticks are exceedingly nasty creatures. For hundreds of millions of years, they have survived on Earth by sucking blood from their victims for days, often leaving behind terrible diseases as a thank-you note. In humans, these diseases include many unpleasant and dangerous illnesses, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, babesiosis, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever, and tularemia, to name a few.
No one has ever looked at why ticks, themselves, are able to survive while harboring bacteria, viruses and parasites. Now, for the first time, scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have decoded how the ingenious tick immune system fights a myriad of microbes. The study appeared in Nature Communications.
“This basic science discovery is fascinating, and may pave the ground for new translational approaches that reduce the negative impact of tick-borne diseases in people,” said Joao Pedra, PhD, the senior author on this study and an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Scientists had long assumed that the tick immune system works similarly to that of flies and mosquitoes. But ticks, which have existed on the planet for between 120 million and 443 million years, have taken an entirely different path. Dr. Pedra points out that in evolutionary terms, ticks are as far removed from insects, as humans are from fish. “Although the two bugs are seemingly alike, it turns out that the immune system of ticks is quite distinct from insects. Our discovery clarifies the ins-and-outs of how the tick immune system fights bacteria,” Dr. Pedra says.
Dana Shaw, PhD, the lead author on the study and a Research Fellow in Dr. Pedra’s laboratory, first noticed that ticks were missing crucial genes for a proper immune response. This observation led to the discovery of an entirely new pathway that recognizes three distinct bacteria: the Lyme disease agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, and two others that cause rickettsial illnesses, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Anaplasma marginale. After identifying components of the immune system, Dr. Shaw was able to block the tick immune response with a molecular technique named RNA interference. She also over-activated the ticks’ immune system to get rid of bacteria even more efficiently. “It’s really amazing what one can do in science these days. I am very fortunate to lead such talented and driven scientists in my laboratory and to work with great colleagues at Maryland and elsewhere” says Prof. Pedra.
The discovery has several exciting implications. By targeting key molecules — essentially manipulating the tick immune system — scientists may now try to make ticks less vulnerable to infection by these microbes. If ticks do not acquire these bacteria in the wild, then they won’t be able to transmit the microbes to humans. Dr. Pedra and his colleagues are now pursuing work along these lines to further understand the tick immune response. “This area of research is understudied and we are only beginning to scratch the surface. That is the beauty of it.” says Dr. Pedra.
Of tick-borne diseases, Lyme disease is perhaps the most well-known. It exists all over the United States, although it is more concentrated in the Northeast, Midwest and, to a lesser extent, along the Pacific coast. Researchers estimate that between 296,000 and 376,000 people per year are infected in this country. Lyme disease symptoms can include fatigue, muscle pain, joint aches, memory loss, confusion, headaches and neurological problems.
Materials provided by University of Maryland School of Medicine. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
- Dana K. Shaw, Xiaowei Wang, Lindsey J. Brown, Adela S. Oliva Chávez, Kathryn E. Reif, Alexis A. Smith, Alison J. Scott, Erin E. McClure, Vishant M. Boradia, Holly L. Hammond, Eric J. Sundberg, Greg A. Snyder, Lei Liu, Kathleen DePonte, Margarita Villar, Massaro W. Ueti, José de la Fuente, Robert K. Ernst, Utpal Pal, Erol Fikrig, Joao H. F. Pedra. Infection-derived lipids elicit an immune deficiency circuit in arthropods. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 14401 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14401
Source: University of Maryland School of Medicine. “How ticks protect themselves from Lyme bacteria and other microbes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170214092721.htm>.
February 13, 2017
KTH The Royal Institute of Technology
Even though it is hotter than the surface of the Sun, the crystallized iron core of the Earth remains solid. A new study may finally settle a longstanding debate over how that’s possible, as well as why seismic waves travel at higher speeds between the planet’s poles than through the equator.
Even though it is hotter than the surface of the Sun, the crystallized iron core of Earth remains solid. A new study from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden may finally settle a longstanding debate over how that’s possible, as well as why seismic waves travel at higher speeds between the planet’s poles than through the equator.
Spinning within Earth’s molten core is a crystal ball — actually a mass formation of almost pure crystallized iron — nearly the size of the moon. Understanding this strange, unobservable feature of our planet depends on knowing the atomic structure of these crystals — something scientists have been trying to do for years.
As with all metals, the atomic-scale crystal structures of iron change depending on the temperature and pressure the metal is exposed to. Atoms are packed into variations of cubic, as well as hexagonal formations. At room temperatures and normal atmospheric pressure, iron is in what is known as a body-centered cubic (BCC) phase, which is a crystal architecture with eight corner points and a center point. But at extremely high pressure the crystalline structures transform into 12-point hexagonal forms, or a close packed (HCP) phase.
At Earth’s core, where pressure is 3.5 million times higher than surface pressure — and temperatures are some 6,000 degrees higher — scientists have proposed that the atomic architecture of iron must be hexagonal. Whether BCC iron exists in the center of Earth has been debated for the last 30 years, and a recent 2014 study ruled it out, arguing that BCC would be unstable under such conditions.
However, in a recent study published in Nature Geosciences, researchers at KTH found that iron at Earth’s core is indeed in the BCC phase. Anatoly Belonoshko, a researcher in the Department of Physics at KTH, says that when the researchers looked into larger computational samples of iron than studied previously, characteristics of the BCC iron that were thought to render it unstable wound up doing just the opposite.
“Under conditions in Earth’s core, BCC iron exhibits a pattern of atomic diffusion never before observed,” Belonoshko says.
Belonoshko says the data also shows that pure iron likely accounts for 96 percent of the inner core’s composition, along with nickel and possibly light elements.
Their conclusions are drawn from laborious computer simulations performed using Triolith, one of the largest Swedish supercomputers. These simulations allowed them to reinterpret observations collected three years ago at Livermore Lawrence National Laboratory in California. “It appears that the experimental data confirming the stability of BCC iron in the Core were in front of us — we just did not know what that really meant,” he says.
At low temperature BCC is unstable and crystalline planes slide out of the ideal BCC structure. But at high temperatures, the stabilization of these structures begins much like a card game — with the shuffling of a “deck.” Belonoshko says that in the extreme heat of the core, atoms no longer belong to planes because of the high amplitude of atomic motion.
“The sliding of these planes is a bit like shuffling a deck of cards,” he explains. “Even though the cards are put in different positions, the deck is still a deck. Likewise, the BCC iron retains its cubic structure.”
Such a shuffling leads to an enormous increase in the distribution of molecules and energy — which leads to increasing entropy, or the distribution of energy states. That, in turn, makes the BCC stable.
Normally, diffusion destroys crystal structures turning them into liquid. In this case, diffusion allows iron to preserve the BCC structure. “The BCC phase goes by the motto: ‘What does not kill me makes me stronger’,” Belonoshko says. “The instability kills the BCC phase at low temperature, but makes the BCC phase stable at high temperature.”
He says that this diffusion also explains why Earth’s core is anisotropic — that is, it has a texture that is directional — like the grain of wood. Anisotropy explains why seismic waves travel faster between Earth’s poles, than through the equator.
“The unique features of the Fe BCC phase, such as high-temperature self-diffusion even in a pure solid iron, might be responsible for the formation of large-scale anisotropic structures needed to explain Earth inner core anisotropy,” he says. “The diffusion allows easy texturing of iron in response to any stress.”
The prediction opens the path to understanding the interior of Earth and eventually to predicting Earth’s future, Belonoshko says. “The ultimate goal of Earth Sciences is to understand the past, present and future of Earth — and our prediction allows us to do just that.”
- Anatoly B. Belonoshko, Timofei Lukinov, Jie Fu, Jijun Zhao, Sergio Davis, Sergei I. Simak. Stabilization of body-centred cubic iron under inner-core conditions. Nature Geoscience, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2892
Source: KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. “New theory explains how Earth’s inner core remains solid despite extreme heat.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170213124312.htm>.
Evening View From the Water Club – NYC
This week it snowed all morning in NYC followed by a beautiful clear evening. Before sunset, we were joined by our good friend and colleague, Silvana Cappi, VP Biometrics, at Ferring Pharmaceuticals who took this spectacular photo of the East River looking North. Can you see the snow and what looks like a palm tree? Also, if you look carefully, you can see the UN building in the background.
View of the East River From the Water Club.©Target Health Inc.
For more information about Target Health contact Warren Pearlson (212-681-2100 ext. 165). For additional information about software tools for paperless clinical trials, please also feel free to contact Dr. Jules T. Mitchel or Ms. Joyce Hays. The Target Health software tools are designed to partner with both CROs and Sponsors. Please visit the Target Health Website.
Joyce Hays, Founder and Editor in Chief of On Target
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Valentines Quiz: Relationship Longevity
An English Victorian era Valentine card located in the Museum of London.
Source: Wikipedia Commons
Long-married couples often schedule a weekly “date night“ – a regular evening out with friends or at a favorite restaurant to strengthen their marital 1) ___. But brain and behavior researchers say many 2) ___ are going about date night all wrong. Simply spending quality time together is probably not enough to prevent a relationship from getting stale. Using laboratory studies, real-world experiments and even brain-scan data, scientists can now offer long-married couples a simple prescription for rekindling the romantic 3) ___ that brought them together in the first place. The solution? Reinventing date night.
Rather than visiting the same familiar haunts and dining with the same old friends, couples need to tailor their date nights around new and different activities that they both enjoy, says Arthur Aron, a professor of social psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The goal is to find ways to keep injecting novelty into the 4) ___. The activity can be as simple as trying a new restaurant or something a little more unusual or thrilling – like taking an art class or going to an amusement park. The theory is based on brain science. New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner. They are also the brain chemicals involved in drug 5) ___ and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Most studies of love and marriage show that the decline of romantic love over time is inevitable. The butterflies of early romance quickly flutter away and are replaced by familiar, predictable feelings of long-term attachment. But several experiments show that novelty – simply doing new things together as a couple – may help bring the butterflies back, recreating the chemical surges of early courtship. “We don’t really know what’s going on in the brain, but as you trigger and amp up this reward system in the 6) ___ that is associated with romantic love, it’s reasonable to suggest that it’s enabling you to feel more romantic love,“ said the anthropologist Helen E. Fisher, of Rutgers, who has published several studies on the neural basis of romantic love. “You’re altering your brain chemistry.“ Over the past several years, Dr. Aron and his colleagues have tested the novelty theory in a series of experiments with long-married couples. In one of the earliest studies, the researchers recruited 53 middle-aged couples. Using standard questionnaires, the researchers measured the couples’ relationship quality and then randomly assigned them to one of three groups. One group was instructed to spend 90 minutes a week doing pleasant and familiar activities, like dining out or going to a movie. Couples in another group were instructed to spend 90 minutes a week on “exciting“ activities that appealed to both husband and wife. Those couples did things they didn’t typically do – attending concerts or plays, skiing, hiking and dancing. The third group was not assigned any particular activity. After 10 weeks, the couples again took tests to gauge the quality of their relationships. Those who had undertaken the “exciting“ 7) ___ nights showed a significantly greater increase in marital satisfaction than the “pleasant“ date night group. While the results were compelling, they weren’t conclusive. The experiment didn’t occur in a controlled setting, and numerous variables could have affected the final results. More recently, Dr. Aron and colleagues have created laboratory experiments to test the effects of novelty on marriage. In one set of experiments, some couples are assigned a mundane task that involves simply walking back and forth across a room. Other couples, however, take part in a more challenging exercise – their wrists and ankles are bound together as they crawl back and forth pushing a ball. Before and after the exercise, the couples were asked things like, “How bored are you with your current relationship?“ The couples who took part in the more challenging and novel activity showed bigger increases in love and satisfaction scores, while couples performing the mundane task showed no meaningful 8) ___.
Dr. Aron cautions that novelty alone is probably not enough to save a 9) ___ in crisis. But for couples who have a reasonably good but slightly dull relationship, novelty may help reignite old sparks. And recent brain-scan studies show that romantic love really can last years into a marriage. Last week, at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference in Albuquerque, researchers presented brain-scan data on several men and women who had been married for 10 or more years. Interviews and questionnaires suggested they were still intensely in love with their partners. Brain scans confirmed it, showing increased brain activity associated with romantic love when the subjects saw pictures of their spouses. It’s not clear why some couples are able to maintain romantic intensity even after 10) ___ together. But the scientists believe regular injections of novelty and excitement most likely play a role. “You don’t have to swing from the chandeliers,“ Dr. Fisher said. “Just go to a new part of a town, take a drive in the country or better yet, don’t make plans, and see what happens to you.“ Source: The New York Times
ANSWERS: 1) bond; 2) couples; 3) love; 4) relationship; 5) addiction; 6) brain; 7) date; 8) changes; 9) marriage; 10) years
Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler MD, First African American Female Physician
Rebecca Crumpler plaque. Source: Kate Kelly, americacomesalive.com
Cover of A Book of Medical Discourses by Rebecca Lee Crumpler
Source: nih.gov; Wikipedia; The National Library of Medicine believes this item to be in the public domain
Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler, nee Davis, (February 8, 1831 – March 9, 1895) was the first African-American woman to become a physician in the United States. She married Arthur Crumpler who had served with the Union Army during the American Civil War. Her publication of A Book of Medical Discourses in 1883 was one of the first written by an African American about medicine. Rebecca Davis was born in 1831 in Christiana, Delaware to Matilda Webber and Absolum Davis. She was raised in Pennsylvania by an aunt who cared for infirm neighbors. Crumpler later attended the elite West Newton English and Classical School in Massachusetts where she was a special student in mathematics. Crumpler moved to Charlestown, Massachusetts where she married Wyatt Lee, a Virginia native on April 19, 1852. During the next eight years, she was employed as a nurse until she was accepted into the New England Female Medical College in 1860. It was rare for women or black men to be admitted to medical schools during this time, and during the antebellum years, medical care for poor blacks was almost non-existent.
When the Civil War began, Crumpler was forced to quit her school. She went back to college in 1863, but her financial aid was no longer available. To complete her schooling, she won a tuition award from the Wade Scholarship Fund, which was established by the Ohio abolitionist, Benjamin Wade. When she graduated in 1864, Rebecca Lee was the first African-American woman in the United States to earn a Doctor of Medicine degree, and the only African-American woman to graduate from New England Female Medical College. The school closed in 1873, without graduating another black woman, when it merged with Boston University. Crumpler describes the progression of experiences that led her to study and practice medicine in her A Book of Medical Discourses (1883):
“It may be well to state here that, having been reared by a kind aunt in Pennsylvania, whose usefulness with the sick was continually sought, I early conceived a liking for, and sought every opportunity to relieve the sufferings of others. Later in life I devoted my time, when best I could, to nursing as a business, serving under different doctors for a period of eight years (from 1852 to 1860); most of the time at my adopted home in Charlestown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. From these doctors I received letters commending me to the faculty of the New England Female Medical College, whence, four years afterward, I received the degree of Doctress of Medicine.“
Crumpler first practiced medicine in Boston, primarily for poor women and children. During this time she “sought training in the ‘British Dominion.’ In St. John, New Brunswick, on May 24, 1865, Rebecca married Arthur Crumpler, a former fugitive slave from Virginia who had served with the Union Army at Fort Monroe, Virginia. After the American Civil War ended in 1865, she moved to Richmond, Virginia, believing it to be
“a proper field for real missionary work, and one that would present ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children. During my stay there nearly every hour was improved in that sphere of labor. The last quarter of the year 1866, I was enabled to have access each day to a very large number of the indigent, and others of different classes, in a population of over 30,000 colored.“
Crumpler worked for the Freedmen’s Bureau to provide medical care to freed slaves; She was subject to “intense racism“: “men doctors snubbed her, druggist balked at filling her prescriptions, and some people wisecracked that the M.D. behind her name stood for nothing more than ‘Mule Driver.“ By the time she moved back to Boston her neighborhood in Joy Street, Beacon Hill was a predominantly African-American community. She
“entered into the work with renewed vigor, practicing outside, and receiving children in the house for treatment; regardless, in a measure, of remuneration.“
Rebecca and Arthur were active members of the Twelfth Baptist Church where Arthur was a trustee, and in mid-December, 1870, their daughter, Lizzie Sinclair Crumpler, was born at their 20 Garden Street home. When Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner died in 1874, Rebecca was in Delaware. At a service in his honor,
“Rebecca Crumpler, MD read a beautiful original poem on the death of Sumner wherein she touchingly alluded to his love for the gifted Emerson.“
By 1880 Rebecca and Arthur had moved to Hyde Park, Boston. There was no great demand for her service in the community. She was no longer practicing medicine by 1883, when she published A Book of Medical Discourses from the notes she kept over the course of her medical career. It was dedicated to nurses and mothers, and focused on the medical care of women and children. Although “no photos or other images“ of Rebecca Crumpler survive a Boston Globe article described her this way.
“She is a very pleasant and intellectual woman and an indefatigable church worker. Dr. Crumpler is 59 or 60 years of age, tall and straight, with light brown skin and gray hair.“
A drawing of Arthur Crumpler, however, has survived. It appears in the feature article about him previously cited. Rebecca Crumpler died on March 9, 1895 and is buried at the Fairview Cemetery near her residence in Hyde Park. She was survived by her husband, Arthur, who died in Boston in 1910. The Rebecca Lee Society, one of the first medical societies for African-American women, was named in her honor. Her home on Joy Street is a stop on the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail.
Arthur Crumpler, Husband of Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler
Sketch of Arthur Crumpler, Boston Daily Globe from 1898
Source: Kate Kelly, americacomesalive.com
Arthur Crumpler escaped slavery and overcame the fact that slaves were prevented from learning to read or write; he attended night school when he was in his sixties. The article in The Boston Daily Globe in 1898 about him as a good student was a well-deserved bonus but he had already lived a full and productive life. Crumpler was born a slave in Southampton County, Virginia. He belonged to Robert Adams who owned the estate where his mother worked. Arthur’s father, Samuel, a slave on a neighboring plantation, was owned by a white man named Benjamin Crumpler. While Arthur belonged to his mother’s master, he took his name from the surname his father must have used. When Arthur was nine, his master died unexpectedly. Because Robert Adams had several sons, his estate (including the slaves) needed to be sold to apportion the wealth among his children. Arthur had liked living on the Adams estate, so he came up with an idea that he thought might get the attention of Robert Adams’s oldest son, John. Arthur approached John and said, “John, I can wrestle you down!“ as he told a Boston reporter many years later. John didn’t believe that a nine-year-old slave boy could take him down, but Arthur was strong and tough. Before long the young white master had had enough. Arthur’s gamble paid off as he had hoped – he earned John’s admiration. All of the other slaves were sold, but John kept Arthur for himself. John Adams took Arthur with him to Smithfield, Virginia, for a year. Then Adams decided it would be more profitable to lease Arthur to other men. He made a deal with a slave trader to take Arthur for four years. It is not clear what work this entailed, but at the end of the four years, Arthur was returned to John Adams. By this time, John had married, and his in-laws needed help. John gave them Arthur. While working for John Adams’s in-laws, Arthur worked at harvesting and processing apples. Arthur described to a reporter from The Boston Daily Globe an improvement he made to an apple-paring machine used on the plantation. John Adams stopped by to check on things one day. He observed what Crumpler could do with the mechanism he had fashioned. He removed Arthur from the in-laws’s apple farm and told Arthur he would give him his pick of a new trade. Arthur could choose carpentry, shoemaking, blacksmithing, or brick-laying. While no one quite knows what transpired here, Adams may have realized how capable Arthur was and wanted to put him in a job where Adams could make money from his work. But there is also the possibility that John Adams saw a way to profit from Arthur’s improvements on the device. By rewarding him with other options, it might keep him from telling others about his invention. There is no patent for an apple-parer that would match Arthur’s or John Adams’s dates or location, but it is still possible that Adams found a way to sell or benefit from Arthur’s accomplishment. Blacksmithing was Arthur’s choice of the new trade he wanted to learn so Adams arranged for him to apprentice to the local blacksmith. Arthur earned $250 per year plus clothing (it would have been usual for the master to take the money). Arthur learned blacksmithing, but soon seemed restless. Adams set him up in his own shop to try to keep him from running away as other slaves were doing.
When the Civil War began with the attack at Fort Sumter in 1861, the slaves in the Smithfield area saw their opportunity to escape. Crumpler and many others ran from their masters. They made their way to the Norfolk Navy Yard where they took refuge on the The U.S.S. Cumberland. The gunboat soon went on to Fort Monroe where many of the former slaves disembarked. Crumpler got a job at Fort Monroe to shoe horses, and he proved to be of great value to the Union in that capacity. Later he worked for Union General McClellan on the Virginia peninsula. By July 1862, Crumpler was ready to leave Fort Monroe and go to Boston where he knew other slaves had settled. He was supposed to collect $160 from the Union Army for his services. The quartermaster had to inform him that they couldn’t begin to pay him that much. Why didn’t he settle for $40? Crumpler was eager to move on, so he agreed. The Army wanted him to sign an agreement to accept $40 as compensation. “They took hold of my hand and held it while I made an �X’ to something.“ t was then that Arthur made a promise to himself:
“I made up my mind I would never make an X again beside my name written by someone else, and I have kept my word. I have learned to write.“
When Arthur Crumpler arrived in Boston, he was taken in by Nathaniel Topliff Allen who ran a school in Cambridge. Crumpler slept in the barn, and did chores to earn his keep. It is around this time that he must have met his future wife, Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler. (Rebecca had been previously married to a fellow named Wyatt Lee. Lee passed away in 1863.) Rebecca had been a student at Allen’s School, and Nathaniel Allen may have introduced the two. At any rate, Rebecca and Arthur were married in St. John, New Brunswick, on May 24, 1865. In 1870, Rebecca gave birth to their only child, Lizzie Sinclair Crumpler. Rebecca set up a medical practice in Boston (she was the first African American female doctor), and Arthur may have switched from being a blacksmith to being a porter at this time. His work involved taking care of stores in Boston – an occupation that he pursued for many years. Both Arthur and Rebecca were devout and involved church members. Rebecca recognized Arthur’s interest in learning, and she encouraged him to sign up for night classes early in their marriage. But he became frustrated. To ease his discomfort, Rebecca offered to read and write for him – and she did so until her death in 1894. From an article in The Boston Daily Globe on April 3, 1898, we learn how Arthur Crumpler learned to manage on his own. “When she [Rebecca] passed away, I found that I should have to depend upon myself if I wanted to learn anything. I could not read the newspapers during the last war, but if we have a war now, I shall be able to read all about it myself. I can do my own signing, and I am not making any more crosses.“ The reporter writes that Arthur had spent the previous three years attending Franklin Evening School, a school that attracted a diverse immigrant student body as most people worked during the day and then took classes at night. “I find considerable pleasure in reading my Bible and papers and books. I sit down and practice my writing lessons, and write my own letters, and then I sit down and add up, subtract, multiply, and divide my figures all by myself. There is nothing to excuse any colored man or woman in the city of Boston from learning how to do these things,“ said Arthur to the reporter. The headline for the article was “Boston’s Oldest Pupil.“ (The article states that he was age 74 but in working through his personal details, it is more likely that he was 64 as he was probably born in 1834 or 1835.) The headline also could have been “Boston’s Happiest Pupil.“
Only once did Crumpler return to Virginia. He attended a reunion of the Grand Army of the Republic in Washington. He returned to Virginia afterward, looking for a sister. On the last day he had before returning to Boston, he heard news of her: she married and moved to Tarboro, North Carolina, and had several children. Before 1898 (when the article was published), Arthur re-connected with one family member. One of his sister’s children came north and located Arthur. In 1898, Crumpler was living in a one-room apartment on Piedmont Street. The apartment was filled with books and one well-displayed Bible. These must have given Arthur enormous pleasure. When Arhur Crumpler died in 1910, he left all his possessions to his niece Maggie King of 50 Hickory St. Orange, New Jersey. (Perhaps this was the child of his sister whom he met later in life.) As his executor, Arthur Crumpler named the reverend of the church he attended, the Calvary Baptist Church in Boston.
Aspirin May Help Prevent Pregnancy Loss in Women with High Inflammation
Inflammation has been linked to causes of infertility. As a result, a study published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (3 February 2017), was performed to investigate the effect of preconception-initiated low dose aspirin (LDA) on pregnancy rates, pregnancy loss, live birth rates, and inflammation during pregnancy. The investigation was a stratified secondary analysis of a multi-center, block-randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial performed at 4 U.S. academic medical centers between 2007 and 2012. Study participants included healthy women 18-40 years (N=1,228) with 1-2 prior pregnancy losses actively attempting to conceive. The intervention was preconception-initiated, daily LDA (81 mg) or matching placebo taken up to six menstrual cycles attempting pregnancy and through 36 weeks’ gestation in women who conceived. The main outcome measures included confirmed pregnancy, live birth, and pregnancy loss. These outcome variables were compared between LDA and placebo, stratified by tertile of pre-conception, pre-intervention serum high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) (low: <0.70 mg/L; mid: 0.70-<1.95 mg/L; high: >1.95 mg/L).
Results showed that overall, live birth occurred in 55% of women. The lowest pregnancy and live birth rates occurred among the highest hsCRP tertile receiving placebo (44% live birth). LDA increased live birth among high hsCRP women to 59% (RR: 1.35), similar to rates observed in the lower and mid-CRP tertiles. LDA did not affect clinical pregnancy or live birth in the low (live birth: 59% LDA, 54% placebo) or mid-level hsCRP tertiles (live birth: 59% LDA, 59% placebo).
According to the authors, in women attempting conception with elevated hsCRP and prior pregnancy loss, LDA may increase clinical pregnancy and live birth rates to those of women without inflammation and reduce hsCRP elevation during pregnancy. The authors added that more research is needed to confirm the findings and to examine the potential influence of inflammation in becoming pregnant and maintaining pregnancy.
Hair Analysis May Help Diagnose Cushing Syndrome
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and helps to maintain blood pressure and heart function and to regulate blood sugar levels and the immune system. For most people, cortisol levels decrease at night. An elevated nighttime cortisol level in the blood is considered to be a key indicator of Cushing Syndrome, a rare and potentially fatal disorder in which the body overproduces the stress hormone cortisol. The high level of cortisol may result from a tumor of the pituitary or adrenal glands or as a side effect from certain medications. Symptoms of excess cortisol include obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels, fatigue and depression. Although the condition can be cured, it can be fatal if it is not diagnosed and treated early. Diagnosing Cushing Syndrome is often difficult and time-consuming, requiring 24 hours to analyze blood and urine tests, brain imaging tests, and tissue samples from sinuses at the base of the skull.
According to an article published in Endocrine: International Journal of Basic and Clinical Endocrinology (9 February 2017), analyzing a hair sample may help with the diagnosis of Cushing Syndrome. The study found that measuring cortisol levels in hair samples tracked closely with standard techniques for diagnosing Cushing Syndrome. The study enrolled 30 patients with Cushing Syndrome and 6 patients who did not have the condition. The number of patients in the study was small, compared to studies of patients with more common disorders, because Cushing Syndrome is rare and it is difficult to recruit a large number of patients. Still, the authors believe their study is the largest of its kind to compare hair cortisol levels to diagnostic tests in Cushing patients.
The study participants provided hair samples divided into three equal segments. Results showed that the hair segments closest (proximal) to the scalp had the most cortisol. Compared to hair segments furthest away from the scalp, the cortisol content of the proximal segments correlated closely with tests for cortisol levels in the urine and in blood taken at night. According to the authors, while these finding are intriguing, further studies are needed to confirm the findings.
FDA Approves Drug to Treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common type of muscular dystrophy. DMD is caused by an absence of dystrophin, a protein that helps keep muscle cells intact. The first symptoms are usually seen between 3 and 5 years of age and worsen over time. The disease often occurs in people without a known family history of the condition and primarily affects boys, but in rare cases it can affect girls. DMD occurs in about one of every 3,600 male infants worldwide. People with DMD progressively lose the ability to perform activities independently and often require use of a wheelchair by their early teens. As the disease progresses, life-threatening heart and respiratory conditions can occur. Patients typically succumb to the disease in their 20s or 30s; however, disease severity and life expectancy vary.
The FDA approved Emflaza (deflazacort) tablets and oral suspension to treat patients age 5 years and older with DMD. Emflaza is a corticosteroid that works by decreasing inflammation and reducing the activity of the immune system and this class of drugs are commonly used to treat DMD across the world. This is the first FDA approval of any corticosteroid to treat DMD and the first approval of deflazacort for any use in the United States. The effectiveness of deflazacort was shown in a clinical study of 196 male patients who were 5 to 15 years old at the beginning of the trial with documented mutation of the dystrophin gene and onset of weakness before age 5. At week 12, patients taking deflazacort had improvements in a clinical assessment of muscle strength across a number of muscles compared to those taking a placebo. An overall stability in average muscle strength was maintained through the end of study at week 52 in the deflazacort-treated patients. In another trial with 29 male patients that lasted 104 weeks, deflazacort demonstrated a numerical advantage over placebo on an assessment of average muscle strength. In addition, although not statistically controlled for multiple comparisons, patients on deflazacort appeared to lose the ability to walk later than those treated with placebo.
The side effects caused by Emflaza are similar to those experienced with other corticosteroids. The most common side effects include facial puffiness (Cushingoid appearance), weight gain, increased appetite, upper respiratory tract infection, cough, extraordinary daytime urinary frequency (pollakiuria), unwanted hair growth (hirsutism) and excessive fat around the stomach (central obesity). Other side effects that are less common include problems with endocrine function, increased susceptibility to infection, elevation in blood pressure, risk of gastrointestinal perforation, serious skin rashes, behavioral and mood changes, decrease in the density of the bones and vision problems such as cataracts. Patients receiving immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids should not be given live or live attenuated vaccines.
The FDA granted this application fast track designation and priority review. The drug also received orphan drug designation, which provides incentives to assist and encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases. The sponsor is receiving a rare pediatric disease priority review voucher under a program intended to encourage development of new drugs and biologics for the prevention and treatment of rare pediatric diseases. A voucher can be redeemed by a sponsor at a later date to receive priority review of a subsequent marketing application for a different product. This is the ninth rare pediatric disease priority review voucher issued by the FDA since the program began. Emflaza is marketed by Marathon Pharmaceuticals of Northbrook, Illinois.