On BioScience and Life and Such

Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

New years resolution: Respect anti-vaccers, believe it or not

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2009 at 10:08 pm

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I get mad at anti-vaccers. I get frustrated with extreme conservatives and overly religious people. Not necessarily because of their beliefs, but because of what their beliefs lead them to – like anti-abortion, anti-stem cell research and, in general, anti-technology and anti-science.

But, from now on, I’ll stop getting mad, and I’ll welcome my frustrations. I just realized that I need to take the consequences from advocating the right to say “no” to technology. I believe the right to say “no” or more importantly, accept this “no” as just as fair and worthy a choice as “yes”, is the only way to protect ourselves from the perils of technology, be they merely ethical or plain deadly. My motto has long been, and still is: Equal rights for tech-denialists.

Why I realized ? I read two H+ magazine columns, one on correcting color blindness and one in athletic enhancement, both predicting the imminent arrival of the slippery slope genetic sorting future. A slippery slope I have done much thinking on myself, and now some re-thinking.

I very strongly believe that the only way to avoid the pitfalls at the end of the slippery slope is by giving everyone the irrefutable right to refuse to use all or any technological (including biomedical) advancement. And then to respect their choice. Only by giving equal rights to naysayers and tech-proponents will you avoid that any potentially society-threatening technology becomes pervasive and/or all-dominant. There will always be “anti-vaccers” to any new technology, and if the technology proves dangerous, they will, like it or not, become humanity’s saviors.

The consequence is that I need to accept the existence of anti-vaccers, I even need to respect their personal choice.

This does not mean that I will stop arguing my own beliefs, nor should anyone else. I still think the anti-vaccers are crazy, no offense !, and achieves only evil by allowing all but eradicated diseases to re-emerge. But, it means that I need to argue from a respectful perspective. Respectful because the principle of “the right to say no” is more important than any single cause, regardless how worthy.

Let this be my new-years resolution.


2 year anniversary :-)

In Uncategorized on December 7, 2009 at 2:29 pm
Happy Birthday album cover
Image via Wikipedia

BIOpinionated is two years old today (7/12 2009). Will keep going !

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Calculating your health predictions

In Uncategorized on December 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm

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Casio COLLEGE FX-100 Pocket Calculator
Image by psd via Flickr

In our lab we’re setting up the PCA3-test designed to aid prostate cancer diagnostics. The test is representative of many emerging diagnostic tests in that it is a) a supplement to existing testing and b) useful only in a subset of conditions.

The PCA3-test complements results from digital rectal examination, PSA tests,  and prostate biopsies. Three tests that until recently have constituted the cornerstones of prostate cancer screening and diagnostics. The relationship between the results from these tests is dynamic and interpretation of test results is often complicated, sometimes very confusing and can, in the worst case, be very uncertain. Add the gene expression results from the PCA3-test and you have  a lot of valuable information, but a tough time filtering it into useful clinical information.

Physicians will learn how to combine the information either in med-school or in update learning courses later in their career. A slow and sometimes insufficient way to convey diagnostic information to the clinic, treating physician and ultimately, the patient.

Thankfully, we live in the information age and medicine 2.0 is well underway. Now the doctor or the patient can separately or together get online assistance in interpreting prostate cancer test-results. Well designed and user-friendly calculators like the “Risk of Biopsy Detectable Prostate Cancer” calculator or prostatecancer-riskcalculator.com (professional use) will help anyone undertand and begin to interpret lab-results. A big step forward in my opinion since information flow becomes quick and targeted.

Such calculators have also been made available for cancer risk prediction:  nomograms.org, for Marevan/Warfarin dosing: Warfarindosing.org, and as demonstrated in a previous post, for Testosterone: Testosterone.

There are probably a lot of calculators out there that I haven’t found yet and it’s highly likely that many more will be developed.

It seems clear to me that interpretation of clinical lab-results may not remain entirely in the physician domain much longer. Hopefully such automated interpretation will lead to patient empowerment and make  deciding on clinical action an easier task.

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