Saturday, March 1, 2008

"Who thought of that?"

Alexander Fleming once stated: “When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer.” Fleming would write later, “But I guess that’s exactly what I did.”

Fleming was the first to realize moldy bread in a Petri dish had medicinal value and he is considered the person to have discovered Penicillin. To learn more about him and his discovery, click here. It will take you to his entry in Wikipedia. It is interesting reading.

I learned of the drug Urokinase when I had my lungs fill up about 90% full of blood in 1984. The condition is called pulmonary emboli. (Emboli is plural for embolism. I had many embolisms). They told me Urokinase helps to break up the blood clots in my lungs. They also told me it came from human fetal urine. My thought was, “How do they get it?” says this about Urokinase:

USES: This medication is a protein (enzyme) which works to break up and dissolve blood clots which can block arteries. It is used in the treatment of very serious blood clots in lung blood vessels (pulmonary embolism).

Modern Western medicine is a wonderful thing, and has saved my life on several occasions. My doctors constantly amaze me with what they know and how they find new treatments for the numerous maladies I seem to attract.

I just learned about another drug I have had to use on a good number of occasions. It’s called Heparin. Heparin is used as a blood thinner they often use to keep my blood from clotting when I’ve had to have an IV for one reason or another.

I learned one of the major suppliers of Heparin in America is China. I also learned it comes from the lining of intestines of pigs! I thought to myself, “Who thought of that?”

Unfortunately, right now, we have a problem with our Chinese Heparin. The New York Times recently ran this story on the manufacture of Heparin in China. I find it fascinating and disturbing. You can read it by clicking here. I find the picture very disturbing as well.

I don’t know if I’ll feel very comfortable about my Heparin the next time my doctor says to me, “We’re going to use some Heparin now, Mike.”

I know many medical breakthroughs have been accidental. I also know many people have devoted their lives to medical research, and billions of dollars have been spent, and will continue to be spent, trying to find all sorts of things like the cure for cancer, and stem cell research to find the cure for paralysis, to name just two. Who knows how those two problems will be solved? I sure hope they keep trying to find the solutions!




Peter R. said...

Agreed. I associate Penicillin with my grandpa, who avoided the draft into WWII because he was a Chemist working for the Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo, MI. He was researching/developing different (life-saving) drugs, like Penicillin. I'm thankful that my grandpa's level of education allowed him to stay on the home front, contributing to the war effort with valuable research!

I'm Not Done Yet said...

peter r,

Wow! Thanks for your comment. WWII united the entire country and virtually everyone played their part. It wasn't just about the soldiers serving in the military. My grandparents were raising children and farming in South Dakota. They did their part by recycling old iron, rationing commodities, and raising crops and livestock. They left the clinical research to people like your grandfather.