The blog of the 2009 – 2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Member Spotlight: Stephen Hauser

HAUSERStephen Hauser, M.D. was appointed by President Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) in April 2010. Hauser is the Robert A. Fishman Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. A neuroimmunologist, Hauser’s research has advanced our understanding of the genetic basis, immune mechanisms, and treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS). While in college he developed an intense interest in the immune system, which perhaps stemmed from the asthma he experienced as a child. This interest set the stage for his lifelong fascination with how the immune system protects us but can also be damaging when overactive. His early experience as a medical resident treating MS strongly influenced his desire to make a clinically relevant impact through research. At that time, physicians had very few options available to address this devastating disease affecting young people, often causing significant disability. The existence of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was merely a rumor at that time, and the main diagnostic tool available at the bedside involved asking patients to immerse themselves in hot water. The hot bath test, as it was commonly known, was used because heat causes a temporary worsening of neurological symptoms in those with MS.

Encouraged by strong mentors, Hauser charted a career that allowed him to treat patients while making a continued impact through research. Looking back at the enormous discoveries in MS genetics, diagnosis, and treatment over the past 30 years (in which he has played a major part), Dr. Hauser looks forward by advancing his research and training new scientists. This next generation, which is on the verge of major breakthroughs in tailored therapeutics for early disease, is crucial for MS. There is still substantial work to be done in reversing the long-term damage of MS, as well as solving what Hauser characterizes as one of the “great mysteries in medicine”: neuroscientists are actively working to determine how the interaction between environment and genetics contributes to the “galloping frequency” of the disease, particularly among women. Hauser’s considerable contributions to the field were recently recognized when he was awarded the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation’s 2013 Charcot Award. Hauser was given this lifetime achievement award for his “pioneering studies in MS genetic susceptibility and role in translating immunological findings into clinical trials.”

It is no surprise that this neuroscientist is thrilled President Obama recently asked the Bioethics Commission to play a critical role in ensuring that neuroscientific investigational methods, technologies, and protocols are consistent with sound ethical principles and practices as part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Hauser notes that the Bioethics Commission has touched on issues related to neuroscience through the course of many of its other deliberations, but he believes this BRAIN project is an exceptional opportunity. He is looking forward to the Bioethics Commission’s public meeting this August -its first meeting since receiving the BRAIN charge.





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This is a space for the members and staff of the 2009 -2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to communicate with the public about the work of the commission and to discuss important issues in bioethics.

As of January 15th, 2017 this blog will no longer be updated but continues to be available as an archive of the work of the 2009-2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Learn more about the 2009 - 2017 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.