Friday, March 31, 2006

Toward a More Holistic Approach

One of the major obstacles, I believe, to solving our planet's problems is that there is such a disconnect between the way we need to look at a problem and the "political" solutions that are considered. Imagine it this way: the earth is one organism, but we treat it as if the boundaries we have drawn actually mean something. That's like saying you have a fever, but only in one leg.

This administration has refused to sign on to Kyoto for various reasons, among them the fact that Kyoto excluded India and China (and with so many people, maybe it would be a good idea for them to be included), and that millions ofjobs will be lost if the strictures of Kyoto have to be followed in the U.S. Maybe nobody projected how many millions of lives will be lost if the sea level rises 20 feet. Jobs or lives, ummmm, let's see.The following link is a quick overview of the issues. There is a remark in this article that suggests the holistic approach that I think is necessary in thinking about almost any problem we face. The author posits that if the U.S. and other industrialized nations cut their consumption of coal, oil and gas, the cost of those fuels will go down and make them more affordable to developing nations. So, while we're cutting, they're increasing emissions. Hmm, not much of a solution for the planet, is it?

In terms of stem cell research, this holistic approach is also necessary. Is it a good idea to develop therapies that will regenerate a smoker's lungs so that the tobacco companies can continue to profit from tobacco addiction? Should we offer an alcoholic a new liver when his old one disintegrates from cirrhosis? Of course, no one is talking about that much yet, because the field is so new that the focus is naturally on curing disease - Parkinson's, spinal injuries, cancer, heart failure, etc. There are many other "moral" issues besides whether or not to use embryonic stem cells for research. With the coming election cycle approaching, I suggest asking candidates whether they think it's a good idea for our most eminent scientists to be forced to leave the U.S. because another country offers them money, a state-of-the-art lab, and the support of the government? This link is very informative.

Have a great weekend! We're expecting 80 degree weather here in Phoenix.

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!