1927 - Herman J. Muller proves x-rays can cause cell mutation.
1985 - Before going stark raving mad, Kary Mullis discovers an easy way to clone DNA molecules, leading directly to an excess of CSI-based TV programming.
COINCIDENCE? I think NOT!
The horror of it is, every goddamn thing you look at seems pretty scary to me.
-- Kary Mullis
It is one of the more striking generalizations of biochemistry - which surprisingly is hardly ever mentioned in the biochemical textbooks - that the twenty amino acids and the four bases, are, with minor reservations, the same throughout Nature.
-- Francis Crick
For the rest of the world, America's arguments on health care reform must be a source of amusement, if not confusion. How can America, of all places, pretend that health care is a commodity and not a right? Who else (except US corporations) would dare try to profit by denying coverage to those who already "paid for it?" Sigh. "Inane" does not even come close as a descriptor. Criminal might be closer.
Most news coverage has centered around a "Baucus plan" that seems intent on maintaining the worst parts of both the status and the quo. Each day we see Democrats caving in to the slightest, weirdest, and most offensive GOP slight and complaint. So far, the only thing that is guaranteed is that no one will be happy with the final result.
My concern is not about the political process. Legislation (especially its birthing process) is always messy. My concern is how small minded and irrational the Democrats have become and continue to be. It is as though they set aside their brains, and simply looked at the history of health care, trying to minimize a few past problems.
Back in Thomas Edison's time, today's Congress would be holding extensive debates on new lamp lighter legislation, and how to best insure lamp lighter companies' market share and profits. Electricity? Electric lights? Bah.
Ever since Watson and Crick stole some x-ray images from a far more talented female scientist, Rosalind Franklin, (talk about badly timed vacations), science and medicine have been on a collision course with each other. They may eventually meet, very probably in our lifetime.
For many generations, medicine was merely an art. Treat the symptom, guess at the problem, try something that almost worked before. In fact, the very first medical guidebook is a lovely tome, filled with allegory, fear, incest, rape, murder, and much more. Some people call it their Bible. I call it mostly fiction. Still, the Bible does present the best thinking about medicine and health issues of its era. Pity that such thinking has been stopped in its tracks, especially by the most ferverent believers in their fairy tales. Blood transfusions, shell-fish born illnesses, limited hygienic understanding, and much more were described and biblical protections were prescribed, because they could at least identify some cause, if not actually solve the problem. If only today's christians showed the same curiosity about medical conditions and their solutions.
Over the past 25-30 years, we have jumped from guesswork and experimentation, to true insights into the genetic basis of disease, heredity, and illness. We are on the verge of learning how to prevent, cure, or at least alleviate the worst symptoms of many conditions. While future medicine may not fix drunk driver-based, back injuries and broken bones, (then again, it may), most other conditions are prime candidates for cures or at least, major league fixes. With genetic screening, people can be made aware of their body's predisposition to certain ailments and future problems.
Here's where the Democrats are ineffably stupid. (Forget the GOP. They are too busy orbiting one of Saturn's more distant moons to have any serious input on real legislation)
Here's the problem in a nutshell: NOT ONE PROPOSAL currently in congress takes into account the obvious future of medicine, diagnosis, treatment, prevention and cures.
Even now, stem cell and genetic treatments are being tried to prevent a future illnesses or to cure many formerly untreatable conditions. Given that the current state of genetic science can be compared to homo-apians knocking together two piece of stone in hopes of starting a fire, many early results have been less than stellar. Still, as our understanding progresses, new and improved techniques continue to show promise. I wonder how many years it took our distant relatives to find that flint worked the best. Well, our growth curve is far shorter. The future is truly within our generation's grasp. Unless you work in Congress. Think back to the homo-apians and their rocks.
Any reasonable future health care program must include a well-defined path for the ethical, appropriate, and effective use of genetic diagnosis and treatment. Genetic medicine holds incredible promise, just as it contains huge traps, and worse. We cannot blind ourselves to the hairy problems that lurk on Genentech's and its competitors' shelves.
During my last semester of college, the guy next door was the biggest drug dealer on campus. As far as I could tell, he never slept. He also claimed to "taste" everything he sold, which is probably why he never slept. His only goal in life? To get into medical school, then concentrate on cloning genetic monsters. I gladly lost track of him after he graduated and was admitted to some California med school. Nuts? Yup. Dangerous? Sure thing. Brilliant? He was, bar none, the smartest person I ever met. Which makes him and his ilk even more dangerous. Imagine an Al Qaida armed with enzymes that are fatal to all human proteins by mere contact. Or a financial terrorist (one of the few not employed on Wall Street) using RNA technology to blackmail an entire city.
The danger exists. But so does the promise, and the human condition is such that curiosity and our need to discover and create are our most admirable facets. We WILL discover new medical techniques that prevent and cure disease. Imagine finding how to unlock those proteins that are directly related to Alzheimers. Or learning how to prevent Malaria, cure AIDS, and fix our sugar processing systems in diabetics. Maybe we will grow new eyes for the blind, and new livers for scotch drinkers.
That bright future makes Congress's failure to even consider or discuss the whole range of issues, including genetic engineering, cloning body parts for transplant, and finding cures for deadly conditions even more ridiculous.
Wait. It gets worse.
Genetic testing is here already. It will only grow and become far more practical, affordable, and useful in predicting and diagnosing conditions, far beyond what we can now imagine. Genetic testing may even lead to and instantly grown, personalized cure for your specific virus or cancer. But . . . .
If we are stupid enough to continue with private, for profit, health insurance for the rest of our conceivable future, we must have Congress ban any exclusions, rejections of coverage, and denial of claims based on a person's genetic potential for illness. The idea that an insurer can demand a blood test, and 10 minutes later write a specific insurance policy that excludes every genetic malfunction that your body will eventually have is more than scary. It is ineffably stupid.
To date, after reviewing every page of legislation that I could find, not one congresscritter or senatwhore has ever raised a question about genetics, stem cells, or the related sciences, much less propose legislation that takes into account our most promising biological and medical science. It is as though this whole new billion dollar field does not exist.
Are they that dumb? (sorry. bad question) Or has the insurance industry thrown up so much dust, that legislating our near future scientific findings is just too difficult for our mentally and ethically deficient senatwhores and congresscritters?
Frankly, if corporations and insurers effectively control our lives for the foreseeable future, it will lead to the death of our great American experiment. Corporations and "for profit" insurers used to serve a good purpose in the past, much like unions made our world safer for all workers. Today, corporate power and its concentration of wealth is no longer an advantage, but a threat. Does anyone think that today's health insurer will ignore genetic testing, and voluntarily agree never to exclude "pre-existing conditions" from your policy? When such an exclusion will virtually guarantee increased profits?
With each passing day we learn that C-sections, domestic violence, even newly diagnosed cancers and other common ailments are being re-defined as "pre-existing," and therefore not covered under your policy. In view of today's reality, Washington's silence on genetics is deafening. And depressing.
Worst of all, few congresscritters have shown any interest in being educated. They are too busy getting all those K Street contributions.
ON EDIT SNARK: In reading about DNA, RNA, and the latest in genetic science and molecular biology, I attempted to determine the cause and possible cure of two devastating diseases, RAMPANT REPUBLICANISM and the ever present GOPhilandering DISEASE. I learned that in most genetic systems, both in plants and animal life, there exists something called "NMD" the Nonsense-Mediated mRNA Decay, the body's quality control system. In typical protein formation, DNA introns are transfered to RNA strands, after which the remaining exons combine to form mRNA (messenger RNA which leads to protein formation) When an organism's EJC molecules run into a "Stop" codon, the previously organized EJC proteins combine normally to do their designed work. In some cases, some EJCs appear after the "Stop" Codon is reached. The resulting RNA is mutated and usually unhealthy, and therefore it self-destructs.
In Rampant Republicanism, there are few operating Stop Codons. This means the protein formation continues unabated, especially in its newly mutated forms. Such uncontrolled protein formation leads directly to confused irrational thinking processes, one example of which is the repeated use of the word "NO!" Another symptom of this genetic disorder is the unmitigated greed and lack of shame the sufferers display.
GOPhilandering is based on an entirely different process. As we learned to manipulate genes by use of enzymes, (bacteria offered the cheapest method for early experimentation), conditional mutagenesis became much more precise, both for creating new genes, and finding the existing mutations that might be related to certain illnesses. Apparently, GOPhilandering is a hereditary problem, caused by frequent inbreeding of GOPers.
Instead of having a fully functional 21st chromosome, this disease occurs when that particular chromosome is copied exactly backwards. Scientists have recently learned that PGD (preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis) can discovery GOPhilandering 89% of the time, giving the parents a viable option of therapeutic abortions. Unfortunately, given their religious brainwashing, such options are rarely sought out, forcing the rest of us to suffer from their presence.