Howard's End: The Dangers Of Medico-Media Dogma
For decades, most in the medical profession believed that the human heart could never repair itself. But now, researchers in New York have finally confirmed it can, which skittles a long-standing medical dogma that arguably has caused many human beings to be condemned to almost certain death. There is none so blind as those who will not see! Maree Howard writes.
The realisation that the body works to restore a damaged heart, much as it does other organs, such as the liver, is an exciting breakthrough, says Professor Harvey White, director of the coronary care unit at Green Lane Hospital.
The discovery by a New York medical team that the human heart can grow new muscle tissue was "a major departure from our accepted beliefs," he said.
I don't blame Professor White for thinking this finding is a major departure from accepted beliefs. After all, he is likely a very professional, dedicated and caring cardiologist who probably spends most of his waking hours helping people after they have suffered heart damage. He would probably have very little time for anything else.
But what I do blame is the dogma too common in the medical profession which seems to myopically believe things that are, will always remain so.
We don't ask the question often enough - why? And we should because I know of medical researchers who have known about human heart regeneration since 1974.
But at that time, their discoveries seemed so "science fiction" and against accepted beliefs, that they could not even get their work published in the peer reviewed journals.
It's taken another 27 years for what it is now described as an "exciting new breakthrough" for their research to surface.
Similarly for stem cell research. The New Scientist has just announced that a stem cell has now been found in adults that can turn into every single tissue in the body meaning that cells from our own body could be turned into all sorts of perfectly matched replacement tissues and even organs.
But even that's old hat - It's already been shown that mature cells can differentiate and dedifferentiate and stem cells have got nothing to do with it.
It's one thing for medical leaders to say a thing won't work or it can't be done, but surely they are obliged to do their own research and confirm their opinion before passing their generalised judgement to the rest of the world which most lay people and politicians accept.
I'm now going out on a limb and I'll likely be dumped-on because of it. But it needs to be said; - If Thomas Edison or Marconi or Rutherford, or Marie Curie fronted-up with their ideas in New Zealand today, they would likely be told they wouldn't work and they likely wouldn't get any general support.
I'll go even further! New Zealand will remain a bit-player in the global knowledge wave unless it collectively opens its mind and stops pulling its visionaries and successful people down.
And the media is one of the biggest culprits.
Just one example. Over the weekend The Press in Christchurch ran a column called "Right on" in the business section by a guy called Neill Birss. It was headed " Age of alchemy reborn as Govt looks to fringe."
It was, in my view, a disparaging commentary about the Government's ministerial advisory committee on complementary and alternative health.
What really got up my craw was his throwaway comment; "It probably hurts little if you believe in the energy channels of acupuncture."
On what did he base that idiotic statement? Certainly, there was nothing in his column to justify or quantify it.
In fact, it was research funded by the U.S. Army in the 1970's which discovered, in the Western medicine sense, that acupuncture points were electrical conductivity points of semi-conduction in the perineural and Schwann cells. The Schwann cell sheaths carry the output signal rather than the nerve itself. The cells that biologists had considered merely insulation turned out to be the real wires.
As an aside, Scoop readers will know that when they try to respond to newspaper articles in more than the one hundred and fifty words which is allowed in the letters to the editor column they get it thrown back in their face as outside the rules. So why bother at all? The newspapers do their readers a disservice in this regard.
Anyway, it was Szent-Gyorgi, who had already won a Nobel Prize for his work on oxidation and Vitamin C, who pointed out in 1960 that the molecular structure of many parts of the cell was regular enough to support semiconduction.
But the medical dogmatists then, and too often today, dismissed his research as " evidence of his advancing age."
So what chance the young, vibrant, inquiring mind of today to break that dogma?
Think about this. If we could restore to a paraplegic even partial use of paralysed limbs, shouldn't we at least be trying. Other animals can do it, so why not humans? And why can other animals and plants on earth grow new parts and we can't? - Or can we?
It really hurts and sometimes scars you for life when you see a relative die or a friend paralysed knowing that medical dogmatism or a closed mind might have contributed to it.