Cancer – what can we learn from Job’s and others?

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What, Why, How?

Understanding this disease has been an important part of my spare time as I have come very close to this through my mother and later reading news and updates on Steve Jobs cancer struggle. 

It is almost like trying to bring closure by knowing answers to What, How, and Why?

It may be impossible to get to the real answers even after spending life time.  There are many experts that have spent considerable effort in formulating hypothesis around cancer and genetics in general. But could they have overlooked or been on wrong trail?    

Identify and target cancer cells 
It is great effort on part of Steve Jobs to try targeted gene therapy by DNA sequencing  all of his normal and cancer cells . It appears that he is one of the twenty people in the world to have sequenced his normal cells DNA. Surprised at such low number.

I am hopeful that selective targeting of cells that carry the malicious /mutated genes, as tried in the case of Jobs,  could be perfected with increased success rate.  If doctors are able to accomplish that then it would open new era in cancer treatment. It will help avoid expensive and painful methods involving chemotherapy, radiation and general techniques that impact normal cells besides the cancel cells.   

Millions of cells, how do we identify the cancer cell?
The number of unique cells  in humans is reported to be around 210 but that might be based on our current understanding.  If there could be a way to scan all cells of our body, supposed to be in 50 to 75 millions, then we can be sure all cells have been accounted for. 

Regardless, we need to take incremental steps and the only way we can understand human life in scientific terms is to keep trying. Even if  life and everything else around us is created by God in ways that may be beyond our ability to ever unravel the mystery of its construction. But, we have to continue to pursue scientific reverse engineering.

It may include perhaps constructing parts of life such as the stem-cell research community is trying. Constructing life, part or full, obviously raises ethical and social issues. But to the extent that it has the greater good in mind it may prove valuable in finding medical solutions for diseases like cancer and others. Not only that, it may provide insights into how life has come to exist as well as help with extra solar planetary systems research.

DNA signature for entire human race?
It would help if each of us can get DNA sequenced at affordable prices or for free. Perhaps, Governments can sponsor DNA sequencing of every child at the time of birth going forward. There are many positive uses only if the genetic information of entire human race is available for self and for other uses.

Share Cancer treatment ?
It would be, if there are no personal or sensitive aspects to this, useful if research community and public can have access to technical and scientific details of Steve’s cancer treatment.  Particularly, the power point presentation doctors made to Steve Jobs. Not just that of Jobs treatment details but that of any other person that has gone through similar detailed cancer treatment such treatments are expensive plus the best minds work on such cases. It would be beneficial to keep them available online for others to learn and benefit from it.

It probably will benefit many families and patients suffering from similar type of disease. Many of them may lack the knowledge, team and resources to handle their own situation. Steve himself wanted his case to be either the first or the last and he truly meant that experiments on him would benefit others.  This is the best hope he laid out for us:

“I think the biggest innovations fo the twenty-first century will be the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning, just like the digital one was when I was his age”

Jobs was referring to his son’s interest in DNA science and how he similarly was interested in computers at similar age.

Quoting further from the autobiography:

When he did take the path of surgery and science, Mr. Jobs did so with passion and curiosity, sparing no expense, pushing the frontiers of new treatments. According to Mr. Isaacson, once Mr. Jobs decided on the surgery and medical science, he became an expert — studying, guiding and deciding on each treatment”

The DNA sequencing that Mr. Jobs ultimately went through was done by a collaboration of teams at Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Harvard and the Broad Institute of MIT.

A doctor told Mr. Jobs that the pioneering treatments of the kind he was undergoing would soon make most types of cancer a manageable chronic disease. Later, Mr. Jobs told Mr. Isaacson that he was either going to be one of the first “to outrun a cancer like this” or be among the last “to die from it.

How do we identify the genes (words) in each chromosome?
The genetic alphabet consists of just three 4 letters – A, T, C, and G. Using these letters one can form short or long words, short or long sentences. ATTTCCTG  ATCCCTG  GATTCCCTTTA ….

Each chromosome thus is a unique sentence. 

But wow do we identify different parts of DNA? Are there gaps between each word? if there are no gaps how do we separate one gene from another?

Could Sanskrit have clues for DNA sequencing?
In Sanskrit language, successive words can be combined to form larger word through some rules.  Could the rules of language like Sanskrit provide clues to help sequence DNA of all cells?

Link with Evolution theory?
Universe and planetary system created when gaseous chemicals combined randomly as hypothesized in a school of thought called ‘Big Bang’.  The life likewise formed randomly perhaps again when chemicals combined to form a self-replicating cell. How did from there the earth, planets, specifies come to evolve? How could this be result of random combination and subsequent evolution? It is so beautiful and perfect and artistic for it to be work of random mix. 

Could there be some clues in the process by which cancer cells ar formed to help understand how life came to exist in the first place? 

All great people who create products or involved in scientific discoveries know the limitations of creating something. Such people have greater appreciation for the solar system, the earth and the eco system on earth – plants, life, minerals, oceans and so on. How could such perfect set of things come together to sustain life?  Even rational and scientific minds wonder if there is some one behind the creation. 

Steve Jobs was no exception as he seems to have said that he is 50/50 on existence of God. Because he knows, having created products, how challenging it could be to create a beautiful product called earth and the entire eco system on earth which seemed to be purposely created (in Job’s terminology: integrated end-to-end) to support life. We have not mentioned Sun and other planets yet.

Things to research further (for my own understanding):

  • Number of cell types in human body: 210
  • Number of chromosome pairs in each cell: 23 ( 22 common , 1 specific to male, 1 specific to females)
  • Alphabet used to construct genes: T, A, G, C
  • Number of genes across the 23 chromosomes : 32 thousands +
  • Number of times gene alphabet is used : 3 billion (scientific community calls them as base pairs)

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Written by ellanti

December 31, 2011 at 10:47 pm

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