Wednesday, January 16, 2008
For the past three days I've been surrounded by the most amazing scientists and researchers who are dedicated to finding a cure for a variety of motor neuron diseases. I've heard about gene mutations, stem cell research, genetic studies, repositories, registries, rat studies, worm studies, flies and pigs studies -- separate not together. And zebra fish -- an excellent form to study because you can see right through them -- you can see the mutations.
It was that same transparency that our kids liked when we had a couple aquariums of tropical fish. We could raise guppies by the hundreds, it seemed. Couldn't keep a black molly alive to save us. And zebra fish -- we discovered angel fish love to eat them. But for the brief time we could watch them, we stared in fascination at their see-through bodies behind the stripes.
My husband's younger brother was equally fascinated with tropical fish and that's where our interest began, with Tommy's collection of salt water and fresh water fish.
The irony hit me as I sat in the lecture hall and listened to a discussion of familial ALS study using this species of fish that Tommy had at one time raised. Because, you see, Tommy was the first in the family to succumb to that very disease Familial Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or the inherited form of Lou Gehrig's disease.
He enjoyed the fish and they may eventually provide a cure for the disease that took Tommy's life at age 18, just barely 18. It rather reinforces the patterns of our lives and how everything is connected. It also makes me wonder why we don't see those connections. Maybe we need to think with a different perspective. If Tommy could have just seen in 1970s that this fish might hold the secret to his cure -- we could have saved thirty years of deaths and dying, suffering and wasting that the disease brings.
If onlys don't get us very far and eat up hope along the way. So I stuff that back in the dark recesses of my brain and focus on the bright scientists who did see the value of these fish and I pray that they figure out the twisted origins of the dreaded disease before another family member dies.
The zebra fish, flies, pigs, even worm studies remind me that we don't know where in nature we might find the next cure. So maybe we should preserve the nature around us -- we never know when we'll need to unlock its secrets to save our lives.