ARE we going to cure all diseases? (Part 1)

I’m already at 2 posts a week now… Yay!

So Tuesday, I went to a lecture by Aaron Ciechanover entitled “Drug Development in the 21st Century: Are We Going to Cure all Diseases?” I thought it was an very interesting talk. I really appreciate him coming to Georgia Tech as well as going into the non-technical aspects of disease. It was relativity easy to understand what he was talking about coming from someone who has no interest in medicine and hasn’t studied chemistry and biology extensively. It was interesting for my to talk about interesting questions that come up based on the knowledge we are learning about. I guess I will first go over what he talked about and my opinions and then I might go over how it got me to think more about how informing key/important people would be great but ironically the hardest people to convince.

I thought he came about as pretty humble even given all his accomplishments throughout the lecture. He started off talking about how he is a physician by profession, how medicine is a hobby of is, and how he would talk over the philosophy/history of medicine. First answering the question of the title of his lecture, he went ahead and basically said his answer was “I don’t know” because of the continuing evolution of the definition of medicine, disease, and health as well as an inability to predict the future.

He talked about how we have extended life by about 30 years within the last 100 years (1900s) while over the past 4000 years, life has only been extended by 20 years. There has been a complete change in life because of how long the average person is living today. He talked about how people are now acquiring and dying from neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, heart disease, etc. He hes that it’s not that we didn’t now about the diseases before, but more than because people are living longer they are more susceptible to these kinds of diseases (basically since its only now that we are living to this age it is only now we know about these diseases). Going back to the idea of curing all diseases, he said how since our lifespans are slowly increasing even longer that there might be even more that we will only find out about in the future so its hard to know.

One question I would have which disagrees with his argument is “Why are people getting these diseases as children?” Why are younger and younger people getting these diseases that we thought were only for ‘old’ people. In my own case, my every single doctor, friend, parent, and teacher were exclaiming how it was so weird I would have such a back problem at such an early age. I know my case isn’t as severe as cancer but why are we discovering that young people are getting it earlier and earlier? Is it that we have ‘better’ technology to find symptoms that would indicate a risk for these diseases, or is there something else causing this to happen. I think its the case that there’s a big reason underlying these changes that has more to do with behavior/environment rather than living longer lives. This is of course without facts/evidence from finding direct scientific studies  and more of speculation through my own experience and the experiences of others but there is a case for what all the improvements we have gained has done to us. I don’t think any of us realize (including me) the extent to which we have become different people. These small changes add up, and we can’t see the consequences until its too late and we need a magic pill to save us.

The things that we have to think about in society is crazy. There is too many to list. Kids have to worry about making friends, wearing the right clothes, listening and watching the right music/tv, doing the right/cool activities, trying to think about how they should act. They care too much about grades, homework, and school. They care too much about fun, distractions, excitement. And at the end of the school day, everyone is ‘bored.’ There is always something that has to be going on. We had phones, then cell phones, computers, the internet, email, text messaging, and now twitter/facebook/reddit/tumblr/…. Its not just that we have begun to find diseases because of living longer. We have created a whole lot of behaviors that I think have certainly caused a lot of burden on the mind. In the past 100 years I’m sure our brain has substantially increased the # of things that should be happening at one time. Its shouldn’t be a surprise to us that it seems as if no one cares, some become depressed, or even worse. There is too much you think you have to do when it all doesn’t matter. I can’t criticize but focus seems like the hardest thing to do for most people. Its not about being smart anymore; its more that no one cares enough to do anything. There is so much out there but we choose to do whats comfortable. Almost everyone in college sleeps late, eats unhealthy, etc – what do we all think is going to happen years down the road? I’m in no position to tell anyone would to do but… health is usually the last thing on our minds… if not at all.

=) –to be continued

Update: There actually an online video of the lecture. Nice!

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