Normally, I’d be excited to explore and write about a breakthrough medical development that could vastly improve and extend the quality of life for more than 6 million people. But I am worried about that newly approved drug for Alzheimer’s disease—and not just about the drug itself.
Developmental biologist Michael Levin is doing some cutting-edge research that may be yet another way to learn the secrets of life--with potentially far-reaching implications.
In October, 2020, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to two women for their discovery of a method in the field of genetics with far-ranging applications. The Nobel Committee, in its announcement, called their effort: “Genetic scissors: a tool for rewriting the code of life”
I think I’m like many Americans—probably many people worldwide—in my reactions to the news that two vaccines appear close to receiving FDA approval and the beginnings of distribution. A total of five are currently in phase 3 (safety trials). With the numbers of people infected and dying seemingly out of control, we are clearly in dire conditions and in desperate need of effective interventions. No question. My Concerns…
The intersection of race and health is complicated. But the emerging picture seems to be that health conditions that affect Black people disproportionately—such as kidney disease and maternal deaths—may have their roots not only in poverty or access to health care, but also in preconceived and unproven notions of race that affect medical decision-making. (emphases mine throughout)
You may recall my recent post describing studies that demonstrate how accurately dogs can sniff out COVID-19. The answer to “What’s Next?” may be found on your wrist right now.
“Wearables” outfitted with artificial intelligence (AI) to report back health data may send a message to asymptomatic or presymptomatic people with the virus before they spread the disease. That means Fitbits, smartwatches, and heart rate monitors that cardiac patients strap to their wrists may help us fight against those dreaded spikes we’re seeing nationwide. The key is that these wristlets monitor heart rate.
I reallyreallyreally do not like inanimate objects talking to me. I avoid Siri, preferring to do my own research than to hear her voice—or to have her record my every Internet search (though I hold no illusions about privacy anymore…). I am not tempted to invite Alexa into my home to find that old Sinatra record for me, thank you very much.
And back in the day when we actually got into cars and drove places, I always resented the high-pitched voice of that GPS woman, who on occasion directed us to dead-end streets and once recommended that we exit sharply to the right when we were in the middle of a bridge. I’m not accusing her of malicious intent, but her satellite-guided bumbling was not a confidence-builder. I am perfectly capable of bumbling on my own.
Why then, do I invite the man-in-the-box into my life practically every day?
This wasn’t the post I’d originally planned to publish. That one can wait for another time. This post is more timely. And since my story may become your story—if it hasn’t already—I thought I should tell it to you now.
I love to write about good news. I especially enjoy elaborating on advances in the world of science during these times when science is too often attacked. This story shares some happy qualities with my recent post about the extraordinary Nobel Prize Winners in Physiology or Medicine.
Like the Nobel discovery, this one seems destined to save lives and dramatically reduce suffering. It’s the result of one brilliant woman’s using her own status as a breast cancer survivor to create potentially dramatic changes in the detection and treatment of the disease.
Do any of the following apply to you?
—You’re hard-pressed to find some good news in the public sphere
—You’re troubled about the anti-scientist trends swirling around
—You have, have had, or know someone who’s had anemia
—You have, have had, or know someone who’s had a heart attack or stroke
—You have, have had, or know someone who’s had cancer
—You’d like to live in a place with a higher altitude than you currently can handle
—You’d like to improve your sports performance
If so, you may find the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine as exciting as I do. And the above list of diseases and circumstances is merely the beginning of what scientists believe will be the impact of the work the Nobel Committee has just recognized.
I have a few friends who are medical nihilists (several of them are married to physicians). They avoid medical care whenever possible, rarely see a physician, and when they go, generally ignore the physician’s instructions.
I am cut from a different cloth. I go to the doctor for preventive care, get my flu shot every year, and seek medical guidance if I’ve had a problem for more than a few weeks. I do have several chronic conditions and a bionic knee and wrist. However, I am fortunately, at this point, in good health. (Cue my late mother’s voice here, making clucking sounds to ward off the evil spirits.)...
And, after years of working as a medical writer/editor, I realize that I have just enough medical knowledge to be a danger to myself and others. (I do, however, refrain from prescribing and for the most part avoid misdiagnosing my friends and family.)