Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Put Science on the Agenda


I remember when the Russians put Sputnik in space. Talk about a panic! All of a sudden, science and math became more i
mportant than anything else. Our students were losing the race and we had to do something quick to catch up. And here we are again. It is becoming clearer every week that we need a new way to think about problems that confront us now, and will confront future generations even more. Katrina was a big "I told you so" to those who don't want to think about climate change because it might disturb their cushy lifestyle. Christopher Reeve died waiting for research and drug developments that would treat spinal injuries. His wife, Dana, died because there was no treatment that would stop the cancer from destroying her. It seems that it is time to put some scientists in the legislature, so that our leaders, our government, can actually lead the way in finding solutions to the problems of this century.

I have been reading Stem Cell Now
by Christopher Thomas Scott and this is a quote from page 95:
By 2010, over 2 million Americans are projected to contract end-stage renal disease, at an aggregate cost of $1 trillion. In 2001, nearly 80,000 people needed organ transplants, fewer than 24,000 got them, and 6,000 died waiting. Of those receiving organs, 40 percent die within the first three years after surgery. One in five of our elders 65 years old or older will require temporary or permanent organ repair or replacement during their remaining years. In 2002, the prevalence of diabetes in the United States exceeded 18 million people - 6.3 percent of the population. That year, total healthcare costs of diabetes surpassed$130 billion. Cancer kills one out of four of us, more than 1,500 people a day. Even though we are living longer, many octogenarians are unable to appreciate their lengthy lives: nearly half of the people over age 85 have Alzheimer's disease. American lifestyles promote physical inactivity and overeating, causing morbid obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Add to this list crippling conditions such as spinal injury, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and a host of genetic and metabolic disorders.
Heart disease is the biggest health crisis of all. In 2004, more than a million Americans died from cardiac failure and stroke, and heart disease leads death by all causes, outpacing cancer by 40 percent. No longer does it afflict only the old. More than 64 million Americans suffer from it, but only 25 million are 65 years or older. The total cost of treating cardiovascular diseases and stroke in the United States in 2004 was estimated to reach $368 billion.
Given an ever-widening chasm between treatment and morbidity, it is no wonder the stem cell has become a common denominator of hope. Behind the sobering facts, patients and their families ask, "Will there be a cure? And will it be in time for us?" (p. 96)
I have no doubt there will be a cure, but it may not be available in the U.S. until long after the rich have been availing themselves of treatments in foreign countries because the research needed to develop those cures was not supported by our government. It is time to cast votes for people who understand that actions we take (or, in this case, do not take) will have consequences for Americans living after these politicians are out of office. I'm not sure what it would take for an elected official to take an unpopular stand for something that may not happen for 20 years.

Life can be confusing sometimes. Here in Arizona, we're trying to keep Mexicans from crossing the border while busloads of senior citizens travel to Nogales every weekend to buy cheaper prescription drugs. We pass legislation to promote trade between the U.S. and other countries, but won't let our citizens buy their medications in Canada, something you would think the Republican administration, with its love of "free trade" would applaud. And because of the moral stance of people who believe that a blastocyst is somehow the equivalent of an implanted embryo, when the baby boomers need cell therapies, they will have to spend their money in Korea, Israel, England, or perhaps India or China; countries who will move ahead as the science progresses, leaving the U.S. as a "third-world" country in terms of emerging technologies in medicine.

Let's vote for the Nerds next time!

This is our new Golden Retriever puppy. Her name is Jodie and she is 8 weeks old!

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