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Pre-Heart Attack “Screening?”

Imagine: There you are sitting outside on a warm, sunny day having a leisurely picnic with your family. You hear an ambulance in the distance getting closer. You’re not on call. Suddenly, the paramedics hop from the vehicle’s cabin and pronounce:

“Excuse me sir, your heart’s not getting enough oxygen and you might develop a heart attack. Please, come with us.”

Sound far fetched? Well, maybe not. A new device is being tested that might detect “silent” ischemia and notify a patient (or even call 911) that he or she is showing signs of heart ischemia on the wire installed in his or her chest. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

Synthetic Life Created: The First “Micro-Avatar”

For the first time in history, a living organism has been manufactured with the help of a computer-generated genome. Dr. Jon LaPook reports on the groundbreaking discovery’s widespread implications.

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The First Micro-Avatar

Craig Venter and his team of scientists recently announced that they had created the first “synthetic cell” — a bacterium controlled by genetic material that they had designed on a computer and concocted from four bottles of chemicals. This is the closest thing to creating life that has happened outside of a science-fiction movie. If it doesn’t fire your imagination, then you should fire your imagination.

Basically, what Venter et al did was remove the “brain” (the genetic material that runs the cell) from one species of bacteria (Mycoplasma capricolum) and inserted a new brain — one synthetically created based very closely on the known genetic makeup of a second species of bacteria (Mycoplasma mycoides). The new organism then divided just as a normal cell would and followed the instructions of the new brain. Think micro-Avatar, except that the Avatar’s body morphs into one designed by its new brain. Read more »

Why Denying Science Is Dangerous

I came across a TED video of Michael Specter’s talk about the dangers confronting us as the war against science progresses. Here’s TED’s description of the video:

Vaccine-autism claims, “frankenfood” bans, the herbal cure craze — they all point to the public’s growing fear (and, often, outright denial) of science and reason, says Michael Specter. He warns the trend spells disaster for human progress.

Read more about The Danger of Science Denial, posted with vodpod.

*This blog post was originally published at Phil Baumann*

Demonizing Drug Companies

by Michael Kirsch, MD

Demonizing the pharmaceutical industry has become a parlor game for many who enjoy the challenge of shooting at an oversized target. Scapegoating Big Pharma? Now, that takes guts.

Never mind the gazillions they spend on research and development to create tomorrow’s treatments for cancer, arthritis, depression, infectious diseases, heart attacks and strokes. I know that drug industry executives are not all eagle scouts whose mission is solely to save humanity. But, they are not an evil enemy that we need to contain like the “swine flu” pandemic. Sure, they make a profit, and they deserve to. Drugs cost multiple millions of dollars to develop, and most of them never make it to market. Those that do, after years of testing and F.D.A. review, can be summarily shut down when unexpected serious adverse reactions are suspected. In these cases, there may be no actual proof that the medicines were responsible for the ‘side effect’.

I’m not suggesting that we demand airtight proof before issuing drug warnings, only that we beware of what happens if drug company profits can be decimated with the stroke of a pen. Playing rough with the drug companies may appeal to our populist sensibilities, but it can go too far and stifle innovation.

Drug companies need the promise of large profits if they are to take the risks inherent in developing new and novel medicines for all of us. What other business would invest in a new product or technology without the potential for substantial financial gain? Before we advocate price controls for medicines or shortening intervals of patent protection, consider the side effects of this clumsy approach. If we hit Big Pharma too hard, then they will play it safe and churn out lots of drugs that we don’t really need.

Which would you rather they invest in? Another drug for heartburn that is no better than all the others on the shelf, or a vaccine to prevent cancer?

If they succeed in the latter endeavor, I hope they earn hundreds of millions of dollars. This will still be less than the number of lives they will save.

Michael Kirsch is a gastroenterologist who blogs at MD Whistleblower.

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*This blog post was originally published at*

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