TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Pharmacology is approaching its end

More and more, scientists are moving away from drugs as the primary treatment for medical conditions. Go look through any of the recent TED talks pertaining to medicine, neuroscience, and so forth. How many of them propose a new groundbreaking drug that will solve everyone's problems? By contrast, how often is it an alternative to medicine that is much more effective? I'm betting you'll discover the latter.

Medicine is a chemical. We allow these powerful substances to enter our bodies in attempts to treat whatever symptoms we may be experiencing. The difficulty is with all of the damage that chemicals do in the means - side effects.

I'm not suggesting that pharmaceutical treatments will soon be completely abolished, but I do suggest that we are beginning to move towards a new era of "medicine." Look at Ed Boyden's talk on optogenetics, "A light switch for neurons" or Yoav Medan's introduction of non-invasive neurosurgery "Ultrasound surgery - healing without cuts." Perhaps we are enter an era with safer, more effective treatments than bathing ourselves with chemicals.

Share:
  • thumb
    Jan 14 2012: That's a great idea! Personally, I favor energy medicine, quantum intelligence, herbalism and healthy lifestyles =)
  • Jan 12 2012: I have schizophrenia and hope you are right, I'm sick of taking medicine and God only knows what it does to my body. The problem is that I can't manage the illness without it, I've tryed four times and each time relapsed. I pray for a cure some day or at least better treatment.
  • thumb
    Jan 26 2012: There's a time and place for everything, including pharmacology. Biochemists have been very inventive in combatting bacteria and viruses with selective medicines. I'll give a personal example. A few years ago I suffered an outbreak of shingles that inflamed nerves in my face and scalp and was very painful. Shingles is caused by the virus Varicella zoster, which is the virus that causes chickenpox. If you've ever had chickenpox or been vaccinated against it, this virus still resides in the nerve bundles in your body, ready to come to life at any time and bring on shingles. The outbreaks happen more often as you get older.

    I was prescribed a treatment with the medicine Acyclovir. I'm a biologist, familiar with biochemistry, so I looked into how this drug would work. Here's the short version: Every life form, including viruses, needs to replicate its DNA in order to reproduce. One of the key molecules that the virus needs for this is called guanine. Now Acyclovir has been made to look like guanine but with an important difference: when it's taken up into the DNA chain it prevents any further growth of the DNA, and thereby prevents reproduction of the virus. Very ingenious, an excellent example of specific biochemical engineering against a specific threat. My symptoms receded almost immediately and I recovered quickly.

    You can't operate against an infection by bacteria or viruses. Modern pharmacology employs some of the best scientific minds (a Nobel prize was given partly for development of Acyclovir), and I've been impressed with the new and specific drugs that they've designed to fight pathogens. Against bacteria and viruses, an attack at the molecular level is necessary, and that means that you attack them with molecules.

    (No, I don't work for a drug company and never have. Don't even know anyone who does.)