Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pharmexa Testing Posssible Universal Cancer Vaccine

In a previous blog post, I asserted that the lengthening of telomeres on the ends of DNA strands would soon provide a cure for old age by rejuvenating old but healthy cells. This has already been accomplished in vitro using the enzyme telomerase, and clinical trials with humans will eventually get underway. As such, all you have to do is stay alive and stay reasonably healthy until telomerase therapy becomes a proven form of medical rejuvenation, and you will stand a 50/50 chance of living to see your 1,000th birthday without all the infirmities and superficial trappings of old age.

Telomerase was discovered by Elizabeth Blackburn in 1984, who recently received the 2006 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research along with her colleagues Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak. This discovery was the result of research driven purely by curiosity, but a few short years later it led other researchers to investigate the role that shortened telomeres played in cellular senescence. It also led researchers to investigate the role that telomerase plays in making cancer cells immortal. On this note, Pharmexa recently started clinical trials of GV1001, which targets telomerase production in cancer cells and could prove to be a universal cancer vaccine.

In sum, the ability to turn telomerase production on in healthy cells and off in cancerous cells will almost certainly end old age and cancer, something that companies like Pharmexa and Geron have been working on for quite some time. This has all sorts of implications for society, not the least of which is how health care will be delivered. To wit, telomerase therapy will almost certainly allow people to live longer and healthier, thereby dramatically reducing the exhorbitant costs of health care for the elderly in their last decade of life and making various forms of trauma (i.e., auto accidents, slip and falls, homicide) the leading causes of death.

Learn more about cancer and other medical issues online. The internet is a great place to start researching anything from cancer, to pregnancy symptoms to recognizing various symptoms of aids, and identifying whether or not you should seek further medical advice.

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 11, 2006

United We Stand

September 11, 2006 finds me in Austin, Texas, the state capital. As I sat in my hotel room last night, working through the night to prepare for a meeting with one of my clients at 7am, 9/11 documentaries were being broadcast on the History Channel, playing in the background, beguiling me away from the here and now, and taking me back in time to September 11, 2001. I was in Sacramento at the time, staying with a friend who woke me up at about 6am PDT to tell me that a terrorist attack had just taken place. I woke up just in time to see the second plane crash into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Two other planes that had been hijacked by the 9/11 conspirators, but had not yet crashed, and I remember thinking to myself that the attack I had witnessed on the World Trade Center was probably the first of many attacks that would signal the beginning of World War III.

As it turned out, the attack on the World Trade Center was the worst of the worst of the worst that would happen that day or any day since. While the attack on the Pentagon was tragic, it could not compare to the destruction and loss of life that resulted from the attack on the World Trade Center, and the brave passengers on the remaining hijacked plane gave their lives to prevent the 9/11 conspirators on that plane from reaching their target. Astonishingly, there was apparently a fifth plane that would have been hijacked by the 9/11 conspirators but for the fact that the pilot of that plane got wind of what was happening and took it upon himself to stay on the ground, something that I did not know until yesterday. The would-be hijackers of that plane fled the scene and have never been apprehended. Even more astonishing is the fact that air traffic controllers and dispatchers in the United States and Canada were able to get every other commercial plane in the United States back on the ground safely.

Faced with an unprecedented state of emergency, air traffic controllers and dispatchers had no protocols for many of the emergencies that they encountered on 9/11. They had to take charge, think for themselves, and come up with new ideas. Then they had to coordinate their actions with other people amid the ongoing confusion. When all was said and done, one would expect that the people reviewing these emerging strategies after the fact would have come up with new protocols for dealing with other, similar catastrophes that might occur in the future. However, after very careful consideration, the people reviewing the decisions of air traffic controllers and dispatchers on 9/11 came to the conclusion that the lack of established protocols gave the people responding to various emergencies on 9/11 the freedom to draw upon their collective experience and make decisions that worked much better than any established protocol could hope to work.

Freedom is an acquired taste. Most people are grateful to have a rule book to quote, or to have someone else in charge, someone who thinks like them, but who's smarter, and who knows what to do in an emergency. But it wasn't a rule book that kept the 9/11 conspirator on the fourth plane from reaching their target on 9/11. And it wasn't a rule book that prompted the pilot of the fifth plane to stay on the ground, thereby thwarting the plans of the 9/11 conspirators who had boarded his plane. And it certainly wasn't a rule book that got all those planes out of the air and back on the ground. It was resolute individuals who accomplished all that, people who knew how to think for themselves and coordinate their actions with other resolute individuals in a time of unprecedented crisis. No one needed to tell them what to do.

As I returned to my hotel room this afternoon, a melancholy feeling started to take hold of me. The sky was grey, and the flags on the Texas State Capitol and elsewhere were all flying at half-mast. September 11th didn't seem like history at all. It seemed like it had just happened, and that the United States was still under attack. And yet everyone was going on about their daily business as though nothing were wrong. Meanwhile, the marquees on the ubiquitous buses of the Austin Capital Metro flashed a repeating message that seemed to speak directly to me and put everything back in perspective: United We Stand. And I thought to myself, "United we stand, but only if everyone knows how to think for themselves."