Almost, but not quite

Sometimes I think that I was born in the wrong century. Granted, I believe that almost everyone has felt like this at one time or another; I don’t think I am special in any sense of the word.

That being said, I wouldn’t change anything about my life, as I love the people that fate, the universe of (gasp!) God, gifted me with (And I mean my family, good friends and the bunch of mean-spirited people that I have encountered over the years; most of them have taught me something…).

In this sense, I am happy that I do not have access to a time travel machine or that I do not have the means to send a message to my past self, I do not want to risk anything about my life story. Well, truth be told, there is just a couple of exceptions to this statement.

Anyway, the people of my generation (which I arbitrarily define as those born in the 1960s) are living in a “transitional era” if you will. This is incredibly frustrating to me. I certainly doubt that I am the first to think things like this, but here are my thoughts.

Take for example the ability to explore unknown lands (really unknown lands, not just metaphorical ones).

A mere 500 years ago you could jump on a big (~ish) boat and in a few months you will find yourself in a totally new place. You could be free to explore, find out things for yourself. Dangerous, you bet, but the romantic in me would have loved to do something like that. If I could have my pick, I would love to have lived in the “Age of Wonder” that took place between the 1700s and the 1800s (Yep, Darwin’s time… (:-)…).

I was off for a short 150 years or so.

… Almost, but not quite…

I would have loved to be a naturalist then with the means to indulge in my passion. Not for grants, not for promotion or tenure, but to simply have a direct dialogue with nature. Biology is the true queen of the sciences and (very unrealisticaly, I realize) I want to know everything about it.

(:-(

Alas, nowadays, there are no true unknown lands. I have to settle with reading about it, and as much as I love reading, it is, of course, not exactly the same as living it.

Which brings me to space. I was born too late for exploring the “unknown” Earth, and oh so very early to even to see the mere beginnings of the manned exploration of our own solar system, let alone the rest of space! This one is even more poignant to me because the reality could have been really different. A mere 46 years ago we went to the Moon, the freaking Moon! We humans could be all over the solar system by now. The frustrating reality is that this did not happen because of a complex mix of political, sociological, and economic reasons. This annoys me to no end. Dare I say that my generation deserved better? In these days, there’s talk of exploring the solar system ourselves, but I am not optimistic that I will live to see it.

This time, I am off by close to fifty years on either side. Dang it!

… Almost, but not quite…

Another area that frustrates me to no end is the failed promises of molecular medicine. Now for this one, I was expecting the lack of concrete results. You see, for close to 20 years I have had conversations with hard-core molecular biologists in which I essentially stated that to sequence a gene is not enough, to even know what a sequenced gene is suppose to do is not enough. No gene works in isolation. And I have met more than one researcher that sadly limit their own science by “ending the quest” with the finding of a gene sequence.

Do not get me wrong. The medical sciences are in a state of constant progress, but in the area of clinical pharmacology, just to give you an example, things could go a little faster. To a great extent, the current state of the art in the pharmacological sciences is the “one size fits most” approach. What I mean by this is that physicians work with prescriptions in a trial and error basis, which entails periods of taking a particular medicine at a specific dosage, punctuated by periods where the result of bloodwork and further medical examinations result on changes to the medication and/or the dosage. If the second time around the meds do not work, the process is repeated. Since the dawn of molecular biology, there has been talk of modifying genes to get rid of diseases, but in more than one case, the reality is that as above, mere sequencing is not enough, compounded by the reality that a sizable chunk of diseases are influenced by more than one gene, as well as the everpresent environmental influences.

And what about the plethora of medical conditions that we have no idea of their genetic correlates? if someone could cure anxiety and panic attacks I would be immensely grateful to say the least.

There is a clear promise for actual gene editing, currently in progress, and some people predict that we should start reaping the benefits of such research in the next 20-30 years or so. I am very happy for my children and future grandchildren, but for those of my generation…

… Almost, but not quite…

~~~~~~~~~

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2 thoughts on “Almost, but not quite

  1. There is actually no better time to be alive in a certain sense and please indulge me for a few moments as you read my reasons for making such a statement.

    The “golden age of exploration” in your essay were only golden for a select few privileged white males. The smallish ships mentioned were brutal with the captain and a few officers living in relative comfort at the expense of the crew. Their motive? Accumulating gold. When they failed to lazily pick gold nuggets off the shores of islands and eventually the mainland of the Western Hemisphere, they resorted to the slave trade and slave labor where they, once again exploited others to become wealthy.

    Not so bad but not exactly noble is the space race that fueled our trips to the moon. One of the things that disturbs me the most about our current president is his lack of vision to generously fund NASA.

    I, too, am somewhat disappointed by the lack of novel and effective therapies in the Pharma sector but you have overlooked a major exception in the way that our understanding of genomics has improved the prognosis for many if not most forms of cancer. Personalized cancer treatment is hugly exciting and makes me hopeful for treatment of other diseases in the future.

    Another point and I will stop pontificating, the mere existence of this blog is the early stages of something that is so amazing at its core that I don’t think anyone anticipated the scope of its power and influence over our lives and that is the accesability of just about every bit of knowledge acquired by humanity.

    Think about that.

    Think back into human history and there are a few things that changed the course of history and bettered our condition and chief among these things was the invention of movable type. It brought about the Reformation. It ushered in the Renaissance, It contributed to the ability of people to shake off some level of oppression and at least attempt representative government.

    This happened because of a dramatic increase in literacy and the power of the written word..

    Our access to knowledge along with the ability to express our thoughts, feelings, and random opinions has given each one of us the potential power to be heard, to be challenged, to challenge others, and to be able to make this world a better place than we found it.

    Sequencing genes is the beginning, sequencing protenomes (sp) is the next step. When proteins are mapped, enzymes, active sites, substrates, and potential treatments might be understood and modified for the good of people that are suffering from various disease states.

    We were put on this earth at the perfect moment and we are children of our times. We are a continuum with our parents we love helping us to make the most of today and what we do now giving our children the tools they will use in the future (and by parents and children, I speak literally as well as figuratively.)

    Sorry this waxed long.

  2. Well, I think there’s no better time than the present. Those golden years in 1700’s and 1800’s only sound interesting when we read about them now – but with barely any medicine, constant wars, lack of basic comfort and human rights, and basically subsistence level survival for most people, living during that time would probably not be as great as you think. 🙂

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