The Emperor of All Maladies, a book by Siddhartha Mukerjee M.D. a physician oncologist is subtitled a “biography of cancer”. Its an historical overview of the disease What caught my eye was the title of the book review of Dr. M’s book: “The Mind of a Disease.” (NYT Sunday Book Review 11.14.10).When I read the title, I said to myself “aha, a book by a physician trying to understand the actual mind–the internal being of a disease, a metaphorical way of knowing the disease in order to understand it well enough to manage or cure it. Dr. M’s book is not that, but the author of the book review, a professor of medical journalism, does refer to this theme–the idea of trying to understand the way a disease thinks and interacts with human biological systems beyond the mere language of biochemistry or the lexicon of cell structure. It is much more. It is pattern and path recognition like the close study of a pitcher in baseball for the way he grips the laces of the baseball in his fingers and the flow and movement on release of the curve. It is more than just a tool for studying disease process. This way of seeing has alsobeen referred to within the field of data mining predictive modeling in the study of the human genome. We are beginning to decipher the workings and language of disease at the most basic levels and the early communications of chemicals as the disease begins the errant processes which have a logic and rationality as sure and straight as the logic of mathematics itself but in the form of cell growth and overgrowth as part of a normal process within us. Not the enemy, it is us untamed.
Obviously, the more we know about the normal bodily systems and cell functions, the more we can learn about abnormal processes and this systemic approach is now being individualized to the patient. I am not really speak about that. I assume all of that. The core change is how do researchers approach to understanding the mechanisms of Alzheimers disease. Assuming this is a process that is part of our cell functions but a form of mismanagement rather than an enemy to be conquered.
This week, there was an article in news about the melding of art and science in which the basic structures of life are being depicted by 3-D films in ways that allow researcher to understand the complex structures and their interactions in different ways. This is another example of ways in which most basic mechanisms of life are coming to light in ways that will provide practical benefits in relative short order as it relates to disease treatment.