The Wrong Direction

A great deal of novel, exciting scientific research is harnessed towards very inefficient ways of dealing with age-related degeneration and disease. The path of inefficiency is the path of patching without addressing root causes, of papering over the rot and hoping for the best. This sort of application is destined for failure - by which I mean it will succeed in obtaining small benefit at great cost, and in the process tie up resources, support and expectations that might have gone to more efficient ends.

Two examples:

UCLA/Toronto researchers unlock key to memory storage in brain:

"We discovered that the amount of CREB influences whether or not the brain stores a memory," said Silva. "If a cell is low in CREB, it is less likely to keep a memory. If the cell is high in CREB, it is more likely to store the memory."

Human implications of the new research could prove profound.

"By artificially manipulating CREB levels among groups of cells, we can determine where the brain stores its memories," he explained. "This approach could potentially be used to preserve memory in people suffering from Alzheimer's or other brain injury. We may be able to guide memories into healthy cells and away from sick cells in dying regions of the brain."

Returning the Springiness to Arthritic Joints:

Arthritis is a joint disorder that affects nearly 40 million people in the United States. It's often the result of an activity-related injury that damages some part of the joint, and it's characterized by inflammation, which is painful and makes the joints stiff and swollen.

Currently, there is no preventative method for arthritis; there are only treatments to reduce joint pain and inflammation. In one particular treatment, a gooey polymer made of hyaluronate - long thought to be the substance that gives joint fluid its resiliency - is injected into the joint.

People will do as they will, of course, but we should not be looking to this sort of work as the way to the future. When there are only so many billions of dollars to be had for medical research, a focus on patching and inefficient methodologies will mean we are doomed to see only lesser results - we must be smarter than that, now that modern technology allows us to do better. The focus should be on root causes, damage and repair, because the cost of developing far better solutions based upon that approach is not much different from the patching, on balance.

Why be slow when we could be faster?

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The reason for this is the fact that almost everyone in the medical industry, including anyone with the initials "M.D." behind their mane, has a liberal arts backgroud. They do not have the technical back necessary to understanding chemistry, reaction mechanisms, and lack the ability to do even the simplist of mathematical calculations (chemistry involves some math). Hense, the idea that they should investigate fundamental biological processes with the purpose of understand how these translate into pathology is completely beyond their comprehension. A fact that was obvious to my wife and I a couple of years ago, when my wife had a medical emergency (which eventually resolved itself on its own without medical intervention) and the MD's we talked to all wanted to do surgery (this is what they get paid to do) when it was entirely unnecessary and would have created additional problems.

Historically, progress in any area of science has come about from people outside the particular field the science is. There have been very rare exceptions to this rule. I expect this to be the case for anti-aging biomedical research.

Posted by: Kurt9 at April 20th, 2007 9:11 AM
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