The Medical Revolution

January 4, 2011
Finding treatments to diseases is the new hype in the science field. Scientists are promising cures for illnesses, but where are the results? Over the past two decades, we’ve been told that a new age of molecular medicine—using gene therapy, stem cells, and the human genome—would bring us medical miracles. The ability to manipulate our cells and genes is supposed to overcome everything from terrible inherited disorders, to widespread conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

In “The Medical Revolution,” Dr. Francis Collins is quoted saying, “Cystic fibrosis seemed like the perfect target for gene therapy.” Gene therapy targets bad genes and replaces them with good ones, like swapping out defective tires. The cystic fibrosis fix was elegantly simple: deliver normal genes into the lung, and they would function in place of the faulty ones. Researchers underestimated how hard this would be, considering the new gene has to get to the right place and continue working without causing unwanted side effects.

After years of research, why aren’t scientists making progress? Scientists have to be optimistic; if scientists weren’t optimists, science would be impossible because people would stop donating. Without money, there’s no science. Researchers continuously convince people the work they are doing will make a difference. They don’t only do this for money, but they also want to believe it themselves.

Finding cures to complex diseases is anything but simple. Scientists make years of mistakes before they make a step in the right direction. For example, successful organ transplants took decades to achieve. It might take researchers numerous tries before they see any results, but even the smallest amount of progress could end up saving lives.

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