31 August 2018

Good news for epileptic mice!

This week there was great news for epileptic mice - but not much joy for humans with the condition.

"Researchers have successfully demonstrated how an electronic device implanted directly into the brain can detect, stop and even prevent epileptic seizures," according to an article published in Science Daily.

Great. Now they'll be able to drive trucks and operate heavy machinery.

Meanwhile, rodents everywhere have also been celebrating (with cheese and wine parties, presumably) the discovery of a drug - aptly named rapamycin - which has been found to extend life in mice, according to a study published earlier this year in The Scientist.

The research, conducted as part of the National Institute of Aging Interventions Testing Program, took place at three separate test sites and involved nearly 2,000 genetically similar mice.

Exactly how rapamycin works is "still an open question," said Randy Strong, a pharmacology professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and one of three lead authors of the study.

And then comes the inevitable disclaimer: "Earlier human trials have shown, however, that rapamycin can have serious side effects".

In other words the drug will kill you long before it extends your life.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. They have to test these drugs on mice before they can give them to people, and the ultimate aim is to develop treatments that don't only work on mice.

I have a couple of problems with that idea. First of all, I'm strongly opposed to animal testing. Second, I know that the primary motive here is financial, not humanitarian (most of this research is sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, and the last things pharmaceutical companies are interested in finding are cures). And third, these "breakthroughs" never seem to translate into actual cures for people.

At this stage there must be a miracle cure available for every disease known to mousedom. Hardly a day goes by without news of some new medical advance that has been successfully tested on mice. Apparently we're breeding a master race of rodents - while we humans are still dying from the same old diseases that killed our distant ancestors.

Isn't it about time the medical boffins came up with a few genuine cures for human diseases such as cancer and coronary disease? Arthritis? The common cold?

For all their "breakthroughs" with mice, medical scientists have yet to produce a single outright cure for any of the most common diseases that kill humans. And yet there is a range of drugs available to "treat" every disease known to man.

If they're so good at finding treatments, how come they're so useless at finding cures? Could it be because they aren't actually looking for cures?

This is the 21st century. A cure for cancer is long overdue. Yes, I know it's a complex and difficult disease, but you'd think that after more than a hundred years of intensive medical research, involving tens of thousands of researchers and costing countless millions of dollars, they'd have made at least some progress towards finding a cure? (And if you think they have, you've been misinformed.)

In any event their failure to find cures for the most common killer diseases might be a bit easier to accept if they didn't keep reminding us in their smug and arrogant way of how clever they are, and how they've discovered cures for virtually every diseases that exists - in mice.

The reality is that most of the medical research going on today is aimed at developing drugs to "treat" or "control" diseases, rather than finding cures to eradicate them. And oddly enough, the more serious the disease, the more expensive the treatment tends to be.

It seems obvious to me that there is a clear conflict of interests between the the motives of the major drug companies and the supposed ethics of the medical profession. And yet the two have been allowed to merge into a single "pharmedical" entity. Essentially, the medical profession is now owned by the pharmaceutical industry, and that can't be good for anyone's health.