Watch this space

Reader — The postings have been few and far between lately, I know, and I am sorry.

I have been teaching this quarter at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and blogging has been taking the back seat.

The quarter ends in the middle of March, and I will try to get back to regular posts after that.

Brancusi’s birthday

Today is the birthday of the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi (1856-1957). Below is one of his pieces, "The Newborn," part of the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Phildelphia, Pa.

Brancusi was one of the pioneers of modern art. He moved to Paris in 1904, where his reputation was built on his increasingly abstract sculptures.

The Newborn

"The Newborn"

The Newborn, 8 1/2 by 6 inches, was created out of white marble in 1915.

It could be a baby, an embryo, or a seed, but "The Newborn"  is all about beginnings.

Brancusi was originally trained as a stonemason and carpenter. One of his strongest influences in Paris was African art.

Abraham Lincoln

Today is Abraham Lincoln's 202nd birthday. Born in Hardin County, Ky., on Feb. 12, 1809, Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States.

He was also a man who endured an uncommon amount of loss, at least by today's standards.Abraham Lincoln

The son of a Kentucky frontiersman who himself had seen his parents murdered by Indians, Lincoln lost his mother, both siblings and three of his four sons to untimely death before he was assassinated in 1865.

Lincoln's mother died in Indiana when he was nine, poisoned by milk tainted with white snakeroot. Cows ate the plant when grazing was bad in a fairly narrow area west of the Appalachian mountains. No one understood the danger of white snakeroot at the time.

Lincoln's brother Thomas died in infancy.

His sister Sarah, married to Aaron Grigsby, died in childbirth at the age of 20. Her baby died, too. Lincoln was furious with the Grigsbys for not calling a doctor when Sarah's labor went on and on. "They let her lay too long," a neighbor said.

Three of Lincoln's four sons with his wife, Mary, also died young — Edward, William and Thomas. Only Robert lived into adulthood.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

FDA okays drug to cut preterm birth rate

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week approved the first drug aimed at reducing the rate of pre-term birth.

Makena, hydroxyprogesterone caproate, is an injection approved to stop preterm delivery before 37 weeks of gestation. It is intended for pregnant women who have had at least one spontaneous preterm birth, and is not advised for use with multiple fetuses, or other risk factors for pre-term birth.

Pregnant Graffiti

One in every eight babies in the United States is born before 37 weeks — 1,500 every day, 13 of whom die from complications.

“Preterm birth is a significant public health issue in the United States,” said Sandra Kweder, M.D., deputy director of the Office of New Drugs in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “This is the first drug approved by the FDA that is indicated to specifically reduce this risk.”

A health care provider injects Makena into a woman's hip weekly, beginning at 16 weeks, or no later than 21 weeks gestation.

The FDA approved Makena under its accelerated approval protocol, which requires a drug's manufacturer to continue to research the drug's efficacy and side effects. An international trial is now under way.

Hologic, a Bedford, Mass.-based manufacturing firm that concentrates on women's health, developed Makena, previously known as Gestiva. Hologic recently finalized the sale of the drug to KV Pharmaceuticals of St. Louis, Missouri.

The FDA okayed Makena's use based on a multicenter randomized double-blind trial that looked at 463 women ages 16 to 43 who had a history of preterm birth. Of the subjects treated with Makena, 37 percent delivered their babies before 37 weeks, compared with 55 percent of women in the control group.

The FDA previously approved hydroxyprogesterone caproate in 1956 under the name Delalutin. The drug was withdrawn from the market in 2001 "for reasons unrelated to safety concerns," according to the FDA.

Pregnant Graffiti by Petteri Sulonen