Saturday, May 21, 2005

Snake Oil, Quackery, or a New Breakthrough in Medicine?

In a recent blog comment I left on someone's blog, I made mention of the Fisher Institute and some stuff on stem cell research. The owner of the blog said that the Fisher Institute was engaged in quackery because of its focus on carbohydrate technology. Someone should tell the World Health Organization, Massachuesetts Institute of Technology, or even the scientist in the linked article below about that.

Scientists race to outsmart clever bugs

A few quotes from the article:

"Around the world, six centres are approaching the problem using glycomics, the study of the biology and chemistry of carbohydrates or sugars in the body.

"It is not about particular foods, food groups or diets, but rather about what role these substances play in the body and how carbohydrate-based therapeutics can be designed to interfere in the biological process of disease.

"In 2003, glycomics was singled out by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's MIT Technology Review as "one of 10 emerging technologies that will have a significant influence in the near future".

"Of the six international centres where the possibilities are being explored, one is the Institute for Glycomics at Griffith's Gold Coast campus, of which Professor von Itzstein is the founder, executive director and a federation fellow.

"At 47, Professor von Itzstein has already established his credentials as one of the smartest scientists in Premier Peter Beattie's "Smart State". In 1996, while working at Monash University, he made the cover of TIME magazine and won the Australia Prize for his role in the discovery of the anti-influenza drug Relenza.

"With a number of his colleagues, he had achieved what many had thought too difficult. He had designed and synthesised a carbohydrate-based compound that acted as a plug to intervene effectively in the infection process associated with influenza.

"As well as being the first designer anti-viral drug discovered in Australia and approved for worldwide use, it was the first designer carbohydrate-based anti-flu drug to be brought to market anywhere across the globe.

"In 2000, Griffith University, Professor von Itzstein's alma mater, recruited him to establish a centre dedicated to the design of carbohydrate-based therapeutics, known as glycopharmaceuticals...

"...Glycopharmaceuticals hold the key to beating virulent new strains of viral and bacterial-induced diseases such as cholera, flu and tuberculosis, which have recently re-emerged as a series health threat.

"...What we are trying to do in one of our approaches is interrupt bacterial and viral infections and prevent them from progressing by manipulating carbohydrates that mimic the naturally-occurring carbohydrate glue and so block the bacteria or virus's interaction to our healthy cells," Professor von Itzstein said.

"The same principles, he and his colleagues recognise, are a promising new avenue in solving the mysteries of some cancers such as colorectal and breast and immune dysfunction such as multiple sclerosis.

"In a decade's time, should the science of glycomics live up to its promise, its impact is likely to equal or better the transformation wrought by penicillin less than a century ago."

End Quotes

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