Monday, October 06, 2008

the status quo

"so, what do you major in at university malaya?"
"oh wow. i could never study molecular biology! the concept of genes and bases and amino acids is beyond me!"

and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the truth.

i don't like things that are too small for me to see. i don't like the fact that some things need to be discovered indirectly. which probably explains why, despite several revisits to stephen hawking's "a brief history of time", the best anyone could do to explain quantum physics without the jargon, i still can't wrap my head around the concept of black holes and dark matter.

the same goes with microbiology.

after reading this about the winners of the 2008 nobel prize in physiology or medicine, i was horrified to learn that they discovered the human papilloma virus and the human immunodeficiency virus through indirect means - presence of viral dna in tumour cells, activity of retroviral enzyme reverse transcriptase. it took forever before they successfully isolated or cloned the viruses. it was a long time before they could see the actual organisms.

on one hand, i wanted to scream at the thought of those 3 men, slaving away in their labs, looking for a sign, any sign, that mean ol' viruses were at work causing cervical cancer and AIDS.

on the other, i am completely wowed at how their efforts have changed the way the medical world deals with those diseases and the countless people who have reaped, and will continue to reap, the benefits of the medical research spawned from their discoveries.

does this mean that i have a new found respect for research into things we cannot see with our naked eye? not really. i never lost respect for it in the first place. however i am, maybe, inspired and encouraged by how rapidly things improve with every new scientific discovery. i am, definitely, now more willing to read about medical advancements.

molecular biology and microbiology still scares the heck out of me. i'd rather see the disease in progress and apply evidence-based management than spend years looking for protein synthesis or viral dna.

i cannot deny the fact that the present and future of medicine lies heavily in the very fields i cannot bear to comprehend, but i am happy to leave it to aspiring nobel prize winners and concentrate on being a physician.


*p/s: hpv is also the virus responsible for turning this man into a "tree".

lishun at 6:10 PM