The idea of being able to identify the most effective medication for a person and their health problem is an exciting prospect that seems just over the horizon. Dr. Altman discussed the database Stanford is building a database that contains information about how specific genes impact drug effectiveness while Dr. Leach spoke about the feasibility of industrializing the process of genome sequencing. With the number of genomes sequenced increasing every year, it is reasonable to assume that eventually the cost will decrease to a reasonable value, making this preventative medicine approach accessible for a majority of the population. Already the price has decrease from $2.3 billion to $100,000.
The skepticism in me was left with an eerie feeling after Dr. Leach asked his viewers if they would want to live to be 120 years old. I could not help but think of the environmental impact that would have on this planet’s resources. What is the cost of humans living to be 120 years old? Can we even begin to predict the true cost of this endeavor, financially, environmentally, emotionally, etc.? Is there any way to account for the “pendulum-effect” (the theory holding that trends in culture, politics, etc., tend to swing back and forth between opposite extremes) of huge cultural changes like this one? Some might call it a necessary risk, others might disagree…only time will tell!
There was an interesting contrast between the two videos on stem cell research. While the 60 minutes investigation on stem cell fraud focused on the use of stem cells to cure disease by way of essentially experimenting with humans, the TED talk with Susan Solomon about the promise of stem cells focused on their use as “testbeds,” that could accelerate research into curing diseases. The importance of evidence-based practice kept flashing through my mind as the defensive Dan Eckland told Scott Pelley of 60 minutes that he kept running up against conspiracies between drug companies and governments. Susan Solomon mentions these “interferences” that she also experienced in the field of stem cell research, which she dealt with by starting “private safe-haven laboratories” such as the New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory. This allowed her to advance her research on stem cells without the interferences from big organizations. Perhaps Dan Eckland should have considered these other pathways instead of starting his own “lab” in Ecuador.
Despite the promise of Susan Soloman’s research on stem cells, I was slightly hung up on her idea of collecting stem cells from all genetic subtypes. This seems like an infinite task to me especially when you add into this mix inclusion of all relevant cells – brain, heart, liver, etc. The combinations could truly be endless. However the robotic technology she mentions that creates thousands of stem cell lines might be promising in this quest for individualized medicine.
The psychology of weight loss is a topic I discovered a year or two ago and have been exploring ever since. The discussion in the TED talk by Alisa Anokhina sounded very similar to the points Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D. make in their book Intuitive Eating. Like Alisa, these authors have been pioneering the idea of mindful eating since 1995. Alisha’s discussion lays the groundwork for rejection of the diet mentality and adoption of a healthier, more mindful lifestyle. By letting go of the thoughts of willpower and guilt that is too often associated with food in America, people are freed to slow down and actively enjoy food and experience the culture of food. I believe this is what Americans have lost over the years, in the quest for weight loss through extreme dieting. It’s time we get back to the basics of cooking and enjoying good quality food. Maybe this could be part of the answer as to why America is so overweight despite all of our technology and resources.