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Women In Science

Reactions: In praise of Shyamala Rajender, and elucidating the connection between heart disease and Alzheimer’s

April 1, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 11


Letters to the editor

Shyamala Rajender

Thank you, Shyamala Rajender. Having been an undergraduate at Cornell University, class of 1967, with a group of 15 female chemistry majors, I had no idea that women were discriminated against in chemistry when I arrived at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In general we were treated well, but I learned that we were the first women in chemistry to be allowed to be classroom and lab teaching fellows. All of a sudden I realized that I had never had any female chemistry professors! I looked around, and few universities had even one female chemistry faculty member. Later, when applying for jobs, I was asked to promise not to get pregnant.

So thank you, Dr. Rajender. Your case against the University of Minnesota had to be one of the first to detail and fight against discrimination against women in an academic science department. You are my heroine.

Georgia Weinstein
Lexington, Massachusetts

Cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease

I was struck by the analogy between cholesterol/cardiovascular disease (CVD) and amyloid-β/Alzheimer’s disease in the excellent article in the March 13 issue of C&EN (page 20). The analogy is probably more apt than the rest of the article suggests. In the 1970s and ’80s, most people thought cholesterol caused CVD. While it is true that drugs that manipulate cholesterol have had some positive effects, it is now clear that inflammation may play a causal role in CVD. The plaques on arteries form after the inflammation, and there are multiple causes for this. Actual causes include bacteria in the bloodstream, insulin, tobacco, and stress hormones. The limited success with Alzheimer’s drugs, even when they reduce plaques in the brain, is interpreted by some researchers in the field as evidence there is an underlying cause of Alzheimer’s disease that has not yet been discovered. That idea was missing from this otherwise informative article.

David E. Henderson
Hanover, New Hampshire



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