Exploring Human Potential

America’s Scientific Bipolarism – “Woe Is Me.” vs. “Yes We Can!”

Posted on | October 24, 2014 | 2 Comments

493353665_295x166SOURCE: HHMI NEWS Videos

Mike Magee

As ISIS and Ebola “take over the world” (or at least the hearts, minds, and fears of the planet’s human inhabitants), it is easy to be drawn into a downward mental spiral. This morning’s news features an MSF doctor, just back from treating Ebola patients in Guinea, travelling on the New York subways and bowling.

Putting aside the returning physician’s choices and/or the government’s seemingly inadequate policies related to close observation of high-risk individuals returning from Ebola treatment areas, the reality is that we have significant assets, whether military or scientific, that lie just beneath the surface, hidden but emerging in this world of “just-in-time” super heroes.

Item 1: A vaccine for Ebola. It turns out there is a prototype, reported out in 2005 to be highly effective that was shelved. It was never commercially pursued. Must I tell you why? Money talks – and until this current crisis, Ebola has been commercially mute. But on the positive side, the dollars are flowing now that the developed and developing worlds are in the same stew. Add to this the military-industrial complex/Homeland Security, which over the past few years became concerned enough about the Marburg virus and Ebola as weaponry, that they began funding development of an “antidote”. Bottom line: We’re about to see some rapid fire efficacy testing of more than one Ebola vaccine, and there is no shortage of “volunteers” for this study, nor professional motivation ($$$/Nobel).

Item 2. A very cool new microscope. The inventor is Eric Betzig who won a Nobel Prize this month in chemistry – but not for this. This was a creation that emerged from the scientist’s growing frustration with existing available microscopes. He wanted to visualize living, moving cells – normal and abnormal. He has now achieved at least the ability to do this, in 3-D, on a surface level. Twenty of his video images of different cell actions have been posted by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute(HHMI). And he aspires to soon go one step further and visualize living, moving physiology from inside the cells.

He’s pretty excited about it. As he says, “Every week we have new research groups coming in, and not to pat my own back too much, but I feel a bit like Galileo — everywhere you point this thing, you’re going to learn something new.” But he’s thinking forward, even now. He says, “The eventual goal is to marry all of my work together to make a high-speed, high-resolution, low-impact tool that can look deep inside biological systems.

Other scientists must be jealous, right? Well, not so much. Case in point, Harvard biology professor, Tomas Kirchhausen, who says, “I was so impressed by the instrument and its potential capabilities that I asked if it would be possible to clone it for my own lab. And Eric generously agreed.” But adds, “ “It’s great that we could clone the microscope for my lab. But I wish we could clone Betzig, too.” Who knows. Maybe this imaging will unlock new solutions to manage the Ebola plague and others that are certain to appear in the future.

Which only goes to prove that science discovery driven by imagination and joy may be just a bit more powerful than science discovery driven by mass fear and unfettered capitalism.

For HealthCommentary, I’m Mike Magee


2 Responses to “America’s Scientific Bipolarism – “Woe Is Me.” vs. “Yes We Can!””

  1. Annie
    October 27th, 2014 @ 3:45 pm

    Great read, thanks for sharing your post. Science is amazing and ever advancing. We are curious creatures and I believe this is what keeps us ahead of the game.

  2. Mike Magee
    October 27th, 2014 @ 5:41 pm

    Thanks, Annie!

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