The Innovation of Dr Frankenstein’s Monsters

I am shocked by fellow scientists at the direction of their research. The cavalier attitude towards dubious health science makes my shake my head. We using innovation as the altar where we innovate new Dr. Frankenstein‘s Monsters.

Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Br...
Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Bride of Frankenstein as Frankenstein’s monster. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Health innovation is necessary. It requires bold out of the box thinking and taking risks. Some of the risks are more calculated than others. Risks can be short or long term. But it seems to me that most risk evaluations are done for the short term. What I mean is that they look for short term consequences of death or serious adverse effect. Dr. Frankenstein took parts of bodies and attached them together because he developed a secret technique to imbue inanimate bodies with life… a short term success with serious long term consequences.

It is the defect of our clinical trial system that we only examine the data available for short term outcomes. A case is point is Vioxx. It was a really great anti-inflammatory that was prescribed for short term use. If used as indicated, then the risk was low. However, with off-label, long term use many side effects became apparent. This landmark case points to the defect in clinical trials and the short term lens that scientists use to bring innovation to market.

A recent report in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Canada says that testosterone is safe to use to boost a woman’s sex drive. The study claims that testosterone is ‘effective’ in giving more satisfactory sexual responses. Other researchers claim that the benefit is not huge.

Let’s step back for a moment. Women don’t make testosterone as part of their natural make-up. Giving them a powerful male hormone is risky. It brings to question what is considered safe by scientists. It is considered safe because at the levels used during the study, none of the usual secondary effects from using high levels of testosterone were observed. In other word no excessive facial hair, personality changes and deepening of the voice. Let me stress that it is during the study – a short term observation. There is no idea as to the long term effect. This is akin to creating a chemical Frankenstein’s monster – using powerful drugs for an ambiguous health outcome.

A more scary scenario is with a UK group who are performing In-Vitro Fertilization therapies. They are proposing a new technique where they can remove the DNA from one egg and implant a different DNA for fertilization. They are anticipating that the new DNA could be manipulated so that ‘bad’ DNA segments that are the cause of disease would be cut out and replaced with healthy DNA.

I find it very cavalier of genetic scientists who talk this way. Biotechnology applications are known to not be 100% accurate or reproducible because it is not a straight forward chemical synthesis. The consequences of the smallest error are huge.

Genetic scientist thought a short time ago that most of our DNA was made up of junk and now they believe it is made up of many intricate regulatory mechanisms. Cutting and pasting DNA is a new level of Frankenstein manipulation. They really have no comprehensive idea as to what the long term effects will be.

Dr. Frankenstein cut, hacked and sewed body parts together. We are more sophisticated. We routinely use chemicals to enhance ourselves. It is frightening to see the prospects that genetic manipulation will have. We have innovated Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster.

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