There are a few very particular races happening in the world of medical science that are probably at least as important to our current era as the Space Race was to the Nuclear Age, but they receive very little press, indeed.
The first is the race to map and contextualize the genomes of the various species on the planet. The sequencing and understanding of the various blocks of data found within the genome – basically, the framework of DNA upon which every individual of a species is built – is yielding unprecedented discoveries about the way biotic systems go together.
But that isn’t the only one. Another hugely-important race is the race to identify all the various forms of protein that exist in life on the planet. Proteins perform a wide variety of functions in the body; we generally accept that you need to eat protein so your body can build muscle and bone. But these are not the only functions of proteins.
For example, DFE recently reported on Professor Andre Hudson’s research on the protein involved in allowing algae to photosynthesize. In this case, the protein is an enzyme that allows the photosythetic process to happen. Once identified, researchers can find ways to arrest photosynthesis in a single species of algae, thus controlling it while leaving the rest of the ecosystem intact.
RIT just recently published a presser on colleagues of Professor Hudson’s and the project to map out all known forms of proteins. The idea of this project is geared at the second phase of Dr Hudson’s research and others: by creating a single database with all the protein information you need, technologists and companies can use the data to create their own solutions to biological problems.
At the same time, in addition to knowing what the protein is, knowing how it is formed is equally important. Researchers elsewhere in the community are finding that gamers are doing some of the best work figuring out how the “game theory” of protein shapes work best.
The pace of this research is breath-taking. The consequences of mapping the genomes of every species on Earth and knowing every protein out there is pretty staggering. Honestly, its also a little bit scary. Which is why the lack of proper coverage in mainstream circles is more than a little upsetting.
It is ironic that the mainstream media is focused on the trial of a celebrity doctor who proscribed drugs to a willing patient while the whole of our understanding of biology – to say nothing of the relatively narrow field of medicine – passes them by.