Mind-blowing medical science

A "vaccine" for brain tumors. A drug-and-electric-shock cocktail that wakes patients out of vegetative states. A single drug that seems to reverse Fragile X syndrome. And gene therapy that allows the blind to see. It's all a little crazy. It's all more-than-a-little for real. (And, hey, that gene therapy for the blind was covered here on BoingBoing a few months ago!)


  1. The sad thing is, that in a world of rising energy costs and diminishing growth, all of these incredible therapies (not to mention the simple wonders like anaesthetic) are put at risk.

    It amuses me (in a very dark way) how the people who refuse to act on climate change science will be the first lining up with their hand out to the science and medical community when they want their cancer cured, their eye-sight fixed, and a new cheaper more feature packed mobile phone. So that they can go back to the business of denying the warnings that the same science community is giving them.

    Hypocritical and self serving barely comes close.

      1. Really, Enormo? I followed the argument and thought it quite good. Did you hear some kind of long, humming noise for the majority of the comment? I’m concerned; maybe there’s something wrong that medical science could help diagnose.

    1. I sure hope that the guy (or gal) developing the Mobile Phone isn’t the same one who’s working on the cure for Cancer.

  2. These are wonderful medical breakthroughs. I’m sure that the very richest among us will enjoy them. And absolutely no one else…

  3. “Fragile X Syndrome” sounds like something from Marvel Comics, but apparently having a mutated X chromosome isn’t as much fun as being an X-man with the “mutant” chromosome.

    I just hope this miracle cure didn’t have to be extracted from a little boy being held prisoner on Alcatraz.

  4. I crunched the numbers on solar power solutions…

    94.5% of Egypt’s land is unused by 99% of the population. If you take a chunk of this equal to 10% of Egypt’s land area, roughly 40,000 square miles, and converted it to solar collection grids (assuming the residential power production rate of roughly 1 kw per 100 square feet), you would produce 11.15136 terrawatts of electricity. Global energy consumption in 2008 was roughly 15 terrawatts.

    Is this feasible? We’re talking a massive installation, but the benefits are incredible. It’d be in a desert, so high efficiency there, little erosion (except sandstorms), and you even have the silicon needed to manufacture the solar collection materials themselves. And the upshot is you produce 2/3 of the global consumption in a single project. Energy prices could potentially plummet, even factoring in construction and maintainance costs.

    Heck, make it a multinational cooperative effort. I mean, you could probably pull it off just by having the EU strike a deal with Egypt.

    ~D. Walker

    1. @D. Walker: The problem with that solution is transportation and distribution of the power. You invent some incredibly efficient batteries, or thousand-mile long electrical cables that can transmit without any loss in power, and then you’ll have a much more serious solution.

      Right now, all naturally-harvested energy (sun, wind) is local.

      1. “thousand-mile long electrical cables that can transmit without any loss in power”
        You do know that electrical power is transmitted exceedingly long distances right now? Yes, there are transmission losses. Yes, the pylons aren’t exactly beautiful. But it is done all the time in many parts of the world. Having large solar collectors (or nuclear plant, or geothermal, or whatever) a long way from the customer is not impractical simply due to distance.

        And ‘curing’ autism? As soon as somebody can demonstrate that there will be an enormous outpouring of disgust – disgust! I tell you – at the idea of genocide of these precious, special children. Don’t believe me? Just search for similar about deafness.

    2. Don’t forget about the environmental impact, your plan would have an incredibly deleterious impact on Egypt’s ecosystems. Desert’s may not be rain forests, but there is a surprising amount of biodiversity that exists and depends upon such climates.

    3. There are deserts all over the place, it would be more efficient to do smaller types of installations closer to where the power will be used. (Longer transmission lines increase losses to resistance.)

      I don’t know why we in the US aren’t spending hundreds of billions on alternative power installations, but at least the new nuclear plants are a start. While we have the money (or, rather, credit) we should be working to ensure our future energy supply.

  5. Thanks for this, my 4 year old nephew is autistic with Fragile X syndrome. I’m now researching Seaside Therapeutics and will speak with my sister about getting him into their phase II study (or phase III if things, hopefully, get that far…). Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

  6. What a shame that the United States and many other countries around the world invest so much time and money in “defense” technology, all of which only serves to hurt and kill people worldwide, while we could be investing heavily in medical research that would help us all live long and happy lives.

  7. The societal costs for caring for an individual with autism (which is similar to what some kids with Fragile X have going on) was has been estimated at 3.2 million over the lifetime, so it’d still have to be a pricey drug for it not to be pretty worthwhile.

    Point on the article: Fragile X is the most common cause for autism in which the etiology has been figured out. The majority of kids with autism the etiology is unknown.
    The article makes it read like most kids with autism have Fragile X syndrome, which is untrue.

  8. So, I’m probably committing some sort of citation sin here, but, I’m pretty sure that in one of the last Nate Lewis lectures when I was in college, he goes over just how little space we’d have to give up to pump all of the (continental) US with delicious solar energy. It amounted to something like a (relatively) small square in an empty swath of Texas or Nevada or something.

    The bigger problem I see here is politics – giving the bulk of a nation’s (or the world’s!) power to one geographic region never makes for good politics. Especially, perhaps, Texas, but that’s just my north east bias speaking there. >.>

  9. Yes. Really, bmcraec! In the hierarchy of stuff to get b0rked by changing climate, I’m putting agriculture (read starvation) at the top. From there you can go to natural disasters. From there you have economic collapse, destruction of infra structure, breakdown of modern society etc. Stuff that effect everyone. Somewhere after that I would put next gen treatments.

    Chosing next generation medical break-throughs to waggle your finger at because it gives you a chance to scoff at people who don’t believe in climate change seems a little beside the point… however self-satisfying.

    …and this is coming from someone who’s wife has terminal brain cancer and is in the process of signing her up for a vaccine trial.

    Don’t get your panties all in a wad.

  10. my name is clive mcnally and i know how
    to write the periodic table from hydrogen through to hydrogen = h2 h4/2 be4/2 c6/12 o8/16
    ne10/20 mg12/24 si14/28 s16/32 ar18/36 ca20/40 ti22/44 cr24/48 fe26/52 ni28/56 zn30/60 ge32/64 se34/68 kr36/72
    sr38/76 zr40/80 mo42/84 ru44/88 pd46/92 cd48/96 sn50/100 te52/104 xe54/108 ba56/112 ce58/116 nd60/120 sm62/124
    gd64/128 dy66/132 er68/136 yb70/140 hf72/144 w74/148 os76/152 pt78/156 hg80/160 pb82/164 pd84/168 rn86/172 ra88/176
    th90/180 u92/184 pu94/188 cm96/192 cr98/196 pm100/200 nd102/204 rf104/208 sg106/212 hs108/216 _110/220 _112/224
    _114/228 _+_115/230 _113/226 _111/222 mt109/218 bh107/214 db105/210 lr103/206 md101/202 es99/198 bk97/194 am95/190
    np93/186 pa91/182 ac89/178 fr87/174 at85/170 bi83/166 ti81/162 au 79/158 ir77/154 re75/150 ta73/146 lu71/142 tm69/138
    ho67/134 tb65/130 ev63/126 pm61/122 pr59/118 la57/114 os55/110 i53/106 sb51/102 in49/98 ag47/94 rh45/90 tc43/86
    nb41/82 y39/78 rb37/74 br35/70 as33/66 ga31/62 cu29/58 co27/54 mn25/50 v23/46 sc21/42 k19/38 cl17/34 p15/30
    al13/26 na11/22 f9/18 n7/14 b5/10 li3/6 h20

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