Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The "C" word: The most taboo word in English

It's the word that every patient living with cancer wants to hear: "You've been CURED."

Cured. A cure for cancer. I've heard that scientists have the cure for cancer but that pharmaceutical companies are hiding it from the public because if a cure is found, they won't make money. Let's analyze this statement.

"Cancer": What type of cancer? Cancer is a group of disease, not a single disease. Breast cancer differs from lung cancer which differs from brain cancer which differs from blood cancers. And then if we look at a cancer that develops in a specific tissue- like the breast- we see that even breast cancer is not a single type of cancer. It is actually another group of diseases that all get lumped under one category based on the tissue it originates from.

Advances in molecular biology have taught us that not all breast cancers are the same. There are differences that occur at the DNA and protein level that affect how the disease advances. Within breast cancer, there is HER2+ or HER2- disease, hormone receptor positive or negative disease, and then the most aggressive which is triple negative disease. Then there are other considerations- does the woman have a mutation in the BRCA gene? What stage is the cancer? A woman with hormone receptor positive disease has a better chance of living with the disease than a woman with triple negative disease. Why? No one really understands the biology behind why one cancer is more aggressive than another, but we begin to see patterns as they uncover different subtypes of the disease.

"Pharmaceutical companies are hiding it": So we have established that a cure could not be a single magic bullet cure, because there are many different types of cancer with many different markers and characteristics. Pharmaceutical companies study drugs that they hope to be cures every day. Let's go back to the example of HER2+ breast cancer. Scientists noticed that 10-20% of all breast cancers are positive for the HER2 receptor and this receptor is involved in communicating growth signals to a cell telling it to grow and multiply. They thought that if they could stop this communication, it could stop the growth of the cancer and eventually cause it to disappear. Targeting the HER2 receptor is a form of "personalized medicine" and in theory, should have worked in 100% of patients with HER2+ breast cancer. While this drug is very effective, it does not work in 100% of HER2+ breast cancer. Why? Because every individual is different and no two people have the same cancer. There are so many factors to consider - from simple things like age and health to complicated things like co-expression of other genes and redundancy in cell signaling pathways. One size fits all does not work in cancer as a whole, and it does not appear to work for a particular subtype of cancer either.

It takes up to 20 years and costs nearly one billion dollars to bring a single drug to market. When scientists come up with new ideas to target a specific type of cancer - like HER2 positive breast cancer - they don't hold back progress because it might cure people, they push it forward. Only by the time it reaches Phase I/II/III trials in humans some 7-15 years later do the companies realize that the drug is not the cure they hoped for, but it does work in a large number of women. Should they stop development of this drug just because it does not work in every single women with HER2+ breast cancer and start from scratch? No of course not. Tell a women with Stage IV HER2+ breast cancer that they only choice for treatment she has is chemotherapy and that once she has exhausted all options, she has no choice because a cure has not yet been found. If there is a new advancement, that drug has a place in the arsenal of drug weapons a doctors has in the war against the cancer in their patient, even if it is not a cure.

"Because they won't make money": What? If a company found a cure to a cancer type, why would that prevent them from making money? They would charge a horrendous amount of money for that cure. And a cure does not mean people would not continue to develop the cancer. In the US alone, according to the American Cancer Society, about 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2010. If we look at HER2+ disease being 10-20% of all breast cancer cases, that is at least 20,709 new cases per year eligible for a "cure" to HER2+ breast cancer. Until we slow down our metabolism by eating less, stop aging, stop putting pollutants into the earth, our bodies and the atmosphere, and prevent DNA mutations and replication errors, people will continue to develop cancer. And as long as people are developing cancer, they will need the drug. Companies will continue to make money with a cure. And then they will move on to another cancer type and try to find a cure there. On top of that, if the drug is considered a cure, they will eliminate the competition. If they eliminate competition they can charge whatever they want for the drug. It is the best situation to be in and what a company wants. Why would they prevent a cure from being made public? Some say because it will cut of research funding.

But that doesn't make sense - why would grants be cut off if a scientist found a cure? If they found a cure, it is more likely that any grant they submit will be funded for any new project - because the lab will be highly reputed and trusted to produce results. The more positive results and publications a company or academic lab has does not decrease funding, it increases it.

The problem is not that pharmaceutical companies are hiding a cure. The real problem is, how will we know that a person is cured? A cure means that the cancer is gone and will not come back. A patient that is in "complete remission" is a person that shows no signs of the disease, but doctors are hesitant to use the word cured. That is because as long as we are living, there is a risk of the cancer coming back. People can be in remission for 10 years or more, but still they are not considered cured. How can we ever guarantee that the cancer will never come back? If a doctor declares a patient is cured, and the cancer rears it's ugly head again, that doctor could be accused of malpractice.

People with certain types of cancer treated with specific drugs - like CML treated with Gleevec or Stage II breast cancer treated with surgery - have no signs of the disease for many many years. It could be said that their cancer has been cured - but really, what we say is they are in remission. There needs to come a time when we realize that the "c" word is a dirty word that may never be used in the medical practice...but that does not mean that some patients have not achieved it. In the end, once someone is diagnosed, they will always be living with this disease. Read this CBS news story to find out about doctors that are hesitant to use the word cure.

Now I am not saying that pharmaceutical companies are only in the business to purely help people - of course they are corporate entities out to make money, just like any industry. But putting their work down does not help the progress. And yes, progress is slow - but that is because our bodies are a vast uncharted universe that is only beginning to be discovered. For every pathway or gene function that is discovered, many more that exist. And we cohabitate with the environment around us, the earth we call home - which is also always changing and impacting our bodies in ways we do not even know. We need to acknowledge that our bodies and the biology that rules it are more complicated than we could have ever imagined. We need to recognize that while our basic genetic code is the same, it is the individual differences in expression that make us unique and make our diseases unique - whether it be due to the way we live our lives (Colorado mountains vs. Los Angeles smog or couch potato vs. gym rat) or our internal processes that we may not have control over (inherited genetics)- even though we may have the same basic disease on the surface.

Scientist and pharmaceutical companies are not hiding the cure from you. They are losing mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends to the very same cancers that you are losing people you love to. They themselves are developing cancers, just like you. Scientists are just as frustrated and baffled that they have not been able to find the magic cure.

We need to accept the fact that we may never find a "cure." We need to acknowledge the strides forward we make in this war against cancer - and that may mean, living for the next 20 years with a cancer that remains in remission, but is never considered cured. Pharmaceutical companies and scientists are not out to deceive you - we are all in this battle together.

The opposite of cure is disease or problem. And just because a "cure" has not been found does not mean we are still with the problem. Some great advances have been made in some types of cancer. Let's change our attitudes to the fact we are living, and even though a war has been waged inside of our bodies, we will strive to live with cancer. We will use the tools we have to make our lives better and we will not let it destroy us. With that attitude in mind, in some cases we have found a cure for now, and we will keep marching forward in attempt to discover the next great miracle in science to help people with cancer live longer.

On a separate but relevant note, I would like to acknowledge the life and passing away of a brave, graceful, and amazing woman who openly shared with us the pains in her life to help us grow - whether it be the death of her son, her husband's affair and fathering of an illegitimate child, or a battle with breast cancer. "She accepted her life and always moved forward. She wrote that at times, the wind didn't blow her way, but she said she was still able to stand in the storm, adjust her sails and move forward." RIP Elizabeth Edwards

Quizás, Quizás, Quizás

Originally Posted June 12, 2007

In the mood for love?

Just when I think I am not, there is too much going on my life, the universe reminds me that it has other plans in mind.

But perhaps I have just thought about this the wrong way. This is not about something entering my life. Allowing the universe to both quietly and forcefully bring a powerful emotion into my life only reminds me of one thing- how much I love myself, who I am, where I’ve been, and how I’ve grown. Loving myself has allowed me to shine and has brought good things to me. Perhaps the message is a lesson and a reminder of how happy I am right now and to continue down this path I have freshly carved out.

Am I in the mood for love? It may not be love, not yet at least, but sure feels like it is and it’s so much more than I ever envisioned for myself at this point in my life. I’ll let the universe and my heart lead me…

Quizás, Quizás, Quizás

“Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions, then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart.”

May Day

originally posted May 4th, 2007

One year ago today I handed in my letter of resignation. What may seem like a series of tragedies that followed that day turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. One year ago today my life began to take a turn for the better. Life is what you create of it. I am now the strong successful independant woman I set out to be. It all started on that Day in May one year ago.

“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

-Andy Warhol

We gotta fight the powers that be

originally posted May 3, 2007

i’m really sorry for the political post, ignore it if you must, but i couldn’t let this one go- the presidential power of the veto.

only used 2 times in the current administration, the lowest of any president in our lifetime- but used against 2 topics that could really change this nation- bush used the power of the veto to prevent stem cell research and to prevent troop withdrawal and controlled spending.

debatable topics yes- but why the veto? once a bill passes the house and the senate, the president can return the bill to congress within 10 days with objections- but he chose to veto both bills. end of discussion. at this point the house and senate must have a 2/3 majority in order to overcome the presedential veto- which is next to impossible right now due to the near even split of dems/repubs in the house and senate. bush never had to use his veto before when his party was in complete control (hence the low veto record). in past administrations it was possible to overcome a veto due to the dem/repub distribution. sure dicussions over troop withdrawal and funding are currently ongoing, but in the current environment this will be a game of who will back down first.

i know what you are thinking- so what? this is an important topic for me for numerous reasons, but the most selfish being that my life’s work relies on government grants. there is a rapid decline in academic sciences in the US as the republicans wage their war against science- hundreds of billions of dollars are being cut from the national institutes of health which must close it’s doors to important research sectors due to lack of funding. just this past year they closed their doors to lens research in the national eye institute- which means that there will never be an understanding or cure for cataracts and other lens related disorders. you may not care right now, but 1 in 50 people develop cataracts and it is a major complication in asthmatics, diabetes, and many drugs used to treat other disorders- one day when you’re blind you’ll remember this post.

why do i stay in government funded academic science? because it is creative, thought provoking and artistic in every way. The US is loosing its good creative scientists to the pharmaceutical industry (or they leave science all together and go into banking or law or whatnot) daily as government spending on the military increases and science decreases. there’s nothing wrong with working for a pharma but the true understanding of disease and disease prevention comes from academia- the creative drive behind new discoveries does not occur in the private pharma sector, it occurs in the public academic sector. as we continue to loose good creative scientists to industry & other fields (because they need to pay the bills and feed a family), we will end up loosing scientists all together and those that exist will work in money driven (not disease driven) industries developing more drugs with more complications and lawsuits in the future without the understanding needed to develop the drug properly & prevent side effects and complications. it’s the difference between understanding the compound versus the system (how can you fix an unknown problem with your car if you only know how to change the oil- sure it takes time and money to learn about the whole car and how it works and fix the problem and it seems much simpler to just buy a new car and start again, but what if that car breaks too? obviously there is something wrong with the design and only true understanding of the whole design will allow you to fix and prevent future problems- silly analogy, i know) the best teams are when pharma and academics work together.

Ok, so back to the point. Bush has been able to wield his power and get his way numerous times. In this game of chicken, who will back down first during negotiations? I am worried that bush will win and congress will back down and give him lots of money to spend on the military because they don’t want to be seen as un-patriotic for not supporting the military and being the cause of military deaths because money wasn’t there to support the troops. Funny enough the real patriotic thing to do would be to bring them back home to their country and families (which bush won’t do) and to give them proper healthcare and benefits (which bush cut). If congress backs down first, bush will be able to spend more on this war and cut $$ from science and education.

Please please reach out to your congressman and support them- with words of encouragement- telling them to not back down and do what is right. don’t let bush just use his veto to end the fight.

Ok I’m done ranting and rambling. For now.

Our freedom of speech is freedom or death

We got to fight the powers that be

Lemme hear you say

Fight the power

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye

originally posted January 1, 2007

from the ash of the fiery bowels of a volcano, a new beautiful life emerges

I am happy to say goodbye to 2006. A new life awaits in 2007 and it all starts today. It’s not about resolutions- it’s about leaving the past behind and starting over again. If 2006 was good to you, you’re lucky- but make 2007 even better. In Dec I already felt the changes- this is the year I will find the greatness that is me. Welcome 2007.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. -T.S. Eliot

FDA OKs food from cloned animals

originally posted Dec 28, 2006


Why don’t more people have a problem with this?

Being a scientist I am all for scientific advancement, but only when the research is done ethically and rigorously. I am not against cloning. I am against the fact that food from a cloned animal will not be labelled. As a result, the FDA does not allow the consumer to make a choice. The FDA doesn’t want consumers to make a choice because it means that the public would then ask questions and would be educated enough to choose against cloned food products.

Why could it be unsafe to eat cloned foods? No one really knows- only time will tell. But that’s the point. These studies th FDA has done are only a litle over 5 years long. 5 years is not enough time to understand the consequences of introducing new factors into the enviroment. Not only does the cloned food need to examined over longer periods of time, but it needs to be investigated in different age groups.Think about a child and how quickly they grow- their diet affects how they grow much more than it does to an adult. But also as an adult, a 20 year old is completely different from a 40 year old which is vastly different from an 80 year old person- different metabolisms, health problems, etc need to be considered with the differing age groups.

The FDA states that there is no difference in the food from clones and food from other animals. But at the same time the FDA is ignoring research that shows cloning results in more deaths and deformed animals than other reproductive technologies. This clearly states that we don’t understand the process of cloning completely. It is not as simple as replacing the DNA of the donor egg with the DNA of choice- something must be happening that scientists don’t understand to result in death and deformity in cloned animals.

Farmers want to replicate animals because they can make copies of exceptional animals, like pigs that fatten rapidly or cows that are superior milk producers.The FDA states that it’s not a genetically engineered animal because no genes have been changed or moved or deleted. But cloning doesn’t guarantee an exact replicate of the original animal- it only promises and exact replicate of the genetic code. It dosen’t take into account enviromental factors (the physical naure around it, the diet, the way the organism is brought up, etc)- there are many many factors that will contribute to the expression of that genetic code. It is the same reason identical twins can have completly different health problems, personalities, strenghs and weaknesses, etc. So this means that just because the original cow they decided to genetically copy is healthy, it does not promise that the replicate will be healthy. Then what happens when you end up with herds of cows that have been replicated? Now they are more susceptible to disease because they are genetically identical. The risks go on and on and suggests more studies need to be done.

So what am I trying to say with all this? Science has not figured out all the answers. Science has helped us have more food available, but it has also lowered the quality and nutrition in our food. Nature is unpredictable and we can not predict the outcomes with short term studies. Ask questions about your food- where it came from, how it was grown, and think about how you feel when you eat it. Demand foods be labelled- you should have a choice. If you want to eat cloned foods, that is fine, but if you want to stay away fom this, eat organically as much as you can- especially when it comes to dairy products and meats. Take control of your own life by knowing what you put into your body- don’t let the FDA make that choice for you.

Those are reruns you are seeing...

To those that care (or don’t):

I apologize. yes those are reruns you are seeing. I posted these 6 blog entries over the past several years on another site- related to science, love, and life. I don’t write often and when I do, it’s from a source of inspiration fueled by some emotion or from education, so these blog entries have a special meaning to me. I don’t want to forget about them because they were posted elsewhere. So I am writing new entries, but here are some older ones formally posted on two other, sometimes parallel network(s). Old blogs will begin with an original date of publication.


Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink

Originally posted June 19,2007

Too many people I know rely on bottled water to drink- not just drink it- but rely on it. Sure I drink bottled water too- especially when I travel to certain regions of this planet- but for the most part I reuse my plastic bottles by filling them up with tap water. Why? Because it’s there, it allows me to drink a lot more water/day than I would if I had to rely on bottled water, I save tons of money, and really there’s nothing wrong with tap water. Perhaps it even makes me healthier because I am adapting to my local enviroment by drinking from my local source.

People complain about taste, pollution, etc. Bottled water has a taste too- but people get used to that. I remember the first time I tasted dark chocolate I did not like it because it was not as smooth and sweet as milk chocolate. But slowly and quickly my taste buds adapted and now I 100% prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate- & dark choc is better for us than milk choc. Bottled water has taste based on the source of the water and the filter used. On top of that, bottled water sits on store shelves and the plastic slowly leeches into the water- which also gives it a taste. Soft plastic have tons of xeno-estrogens which are harmful for humans (but that is another discussion).

We are told that tap water is bad for us...but why is it so bad that we should not drink it? It is not full of bacteria, parasites, and pesticides like in some poverty stricken countries. This bottled water craze has only picked up in the last 10 years. My grandparents and parents seem fine. I was fine for the first 2 decades of my life. And actually the EPA has stronger regulation over water treatment, pollution, and contamination now than it did decades ago. Perhaps we should all be walking around with highly filtered masks because we pollute our air and I am certain that we ingest more air into our bodies per day than water. Is tap water that bad for us or are we all buying into a myth?

So much waste is created by the use of bottled water- think of the landfills full of plastic. On top of that, think of the gas and oil that is needed to 1) produce the plastic bottles 2)ship the bottles from maine, fiji, or wherever the pure natural spring source is to your local grocery store. Aren’t we at war right now based on oil? Do we need to encourage our dependance on oil by refusing to drink the highly filtered highly regulated water than comes out of our local well sources just because we don’t like the taste?

So many people in this world are suffering from lack of resources- some people don’t have a source or access to drinkable water. Perhaps we should be grateful that we do, take full advantage of it, and save the bottled water for times of necessity rather than being greedy and using up the world’s resources for ourselves. Let’s stop pouring the resources down the drain.

Check out this article from the Union of Concerned Scientists that reminded me of my beliefs...Ok, I need to go dig out my nalgene bottle and put it into use again.

Is Bottled Water Better?
June 2007

Bottled water manufacturers’ marketing campaigns capitalize on isolated instances of contaminated public drinking water supplies by encouraging the perception that their products are purer and safer than tap water. But the reality is that tap water is actually held to more stringent quality standards than bottled water, and some brands of bottled water are just tap water in disguise. What’s more, our increasing consumption of bottled water—more than 22 gallons per U.S. citizen in 2004 according to the Earth Policy Institute—fuels an unsustainable industry that takes a heavy toll on the environment.

Environmental Impact

Fossil fuel consumption. Approximately 1.5 million gallons of oil—enough to run 100,000 cars for a whole year—are used to make plastic water bottles, while transporting these bottles burns thousands more gallons of oil. In addition, the burning of oil and other fossil fuels (which are also used to generate the energy that powers the manufacturing process) emits global warming pollution into the atmosphere.

Water consumption. The growth in bottled water production has increased water extraction in areas near bottling plants, leading to water shortages that affect nearby consumers and farmers. In addition to the millions of gallons of water used in the plastic-making process, two gallons of water are wasted in the purification process for every gallon that goes into the bottles.

Waste. Only about 10 percent of water bottles are recycled, leaving the rest in landfills where it takes thousands of years for the plastic to decompose.

The Simple (and Cheaper) Solution

The next time you feel thirsty, forgo the bottle and turn to the tap. You’ll not only lower your environmental impact but also save money—bottled water can cost up to 10,000 times more per gallon than tap water. And because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for tap water are more stringent than the Food and Drug Administration’s standards for bottled water, you’ll be drinking water that is just as safe as, or safer than, bottled.

If, however, you don’t like the taste of your tap water or are unsure of its quality, you can buy a filter pitcher or install an inexpensive faucet filter to remove trace chemicals and bacteria. If you will be away from home, fill a reusable bottle from your tap and refill it along the way; travel bottles with built-in filters are also available. Finally, limit your bottled water purchases for those times when you’re traveling in countries where water quality is questionable.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate. ~Henry J. Tillman

It's happened! Obama, Clinton, McCain, and Huckabee have been invited by ScienceDebate2008 to participate in a science debate at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia on April 18!

Now, my question is will the candidates be part of the solution or will they continue to be stuck, refusing to dissolve and join in this discussion?

I don't care if they are republican or democrat, man or woman, black or white. I want to hear a debate. We need to move from a era of ignoring and dismissing science to a time of scientific discussion, progress and growth. What started as a grassroots movement could transform our next leader into a scientifically aware president that will impact our safety, our health, and our economy.

From Union of Concerned Scientists 2008 Calendar

Sure everyone talks about the obvious ignoring of global warming, but did you realize that science could have influenced the US war in Iraq? If the Bush Administration had listened to scientists stating that the aluminum tubes found in Iraq were the wrong size for uranium enrichment, perhaps billions of dollars could have been saved to find out there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Let's move from WMD's to WMI's: Weapons of Mass Instruction!

Who cares what their grades were in science class. I don't really care if they know how many bases are in DNA off the top of their head. That's what a science advisor is for (or wikipedia)-I know that the president should have basic knowledge, but they can learn that info as they go along.

And why scare them away with scientific discussion? No one likes to have a pop-quiz. Let's see if they have the ability to learn and understand, not see how smart they are currently. I think we should treat them like scientists: give the candidates a list of questions and the time to do the background research. As they research these topics, they will learn the basic science that goes along with it. Then let them present their ideas and methods.

Some of the questions I have are:

1)What role would a scientific advisor play in your administration and what qualities would you look for in choosing a scientific advisor?

2)How can we fight growing epidemics such as antibiotic resistant bacteria or mutating diseases, or make vaccines or even protect ourselves against biological weapons in a "war on terror" if the basic scientific ideas of natural selection and evolution are denied?

3)How will immigration laws affect scientific research?

4)What role does a president play in inspiring and educating the public in science and scientific progress? How can they promote science education?

5)Do you think corn-based ethanol is a viable alternative for fuel?

6)What is the potential impact of using cloned animals for food on human health, the environment and the economy?

7)Should the FDA regulate the use genetically modified crops the same way it regulates medicine created through recombinant DNA technology?

8)How can science stimulate the economy?

9)How could science have contributed to policy or decision making in the past administrations regarding war, health, or the environment? How have past presidents let science influence their decisions, for better or worse? Would you have made the same decisions or done something different and why?

I doubt that the candidates have answers to these questions now. I know they haven't thought of most of these issues the same way they have thought about healthcare or war, but let's get their brains working!

But first we need to get them to join the discussion. Continue to talk about it as a public and encourage their individual campaigns and the media to care!

The New York Times and MSNBC recently ran stories about the invitation. It's a start. The movement is growing!

From Union of Concerned Scientists 2008 Calendar

Thursday, January 31, 2008

My protein is not denaturated, it's structurally ambivalent

Tuesday Feb 5th is approaching and New York State will be holding primary elections. As a registered democrat, I have only a few more days to decide who will get my vote: Clinton, Obama, or....well everyone else seems to have dropped out.

The optimistic side of me regarding the elections has temporarily been quenched. The focus is not on the issues anymore. It seems that the candidates are more interested in discussing who is running a campaign based on mudslinging or slandering. Last night's democratic debate illustrated that the candidates don't want to truly debate issues but briefly allude to them instead. Instead of instilling hope with details and plans of action, they talked about making a change by being President starting from day 1- what does that mean anyway? If the "hot topic" issues are not properly discussed, how can other equally important issues ever enter the conversation? War, health care, abortion, capital punishment, illegal immigration, and the economy are important issues that of course affect my decision: but how do I choose between candidates that are nearly (not completely) equal regarding these issues and yet are not discussing, debating, or even routinely mentioning the issues that I consider just as important?

What has happened to science in the political debate?

Embryonic stem cell research, genomics research, water shortages, global warming, re-emergence of disease, drug patents, the decrease in the number of US citizens entering (or completing) graduate science and math programs, funding to academic research and post-doctoral salaries: these are the issues that I am concerned with. Yes, these are non-partisan issues, but the discussion has to start somewhere. Why wait for the general election? Start the debates in the primaries. With the current administrations views on science (talking down to the public by diminishing the importance of new technologies or growing epidemics, dismal NIH funding, distorting information) and the lack of public understanding regarding these issues, it's more important than ever to start talking science.

House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, vowed to focus on research, and understood that we as a country need to focus on science and math education to foster scientific innovation and keep up with the growth that is occurring in countries like China and India. Of course the issues are not black and white- it’s not as easy as just putting more money into NIH (where does that money come from?). But the longer we wait to discuss these issues, the longer it will take to implement a change.

In the last 8 years, many US politicians have been largely against science and scientific advancement. Republican or democrat, the presidential candidates need to create pro-science atmosphere that allows for great discoveries. We need a leader that can take stand for the future and dream big. One who can convey the importance of scientific progress to Americans. They may not have been trained in the sciences, but they can understand what their scientific advisors are explaining to them and learn about the advantages and disadvantages of new and upcoming fields. They can see the future, the promise, and translate that excitement to the public. We didn’t get to the moon simply by researchers working hard in the background, but instead by a President who instilled hope, dreams and visions into the public which then went to support and inspire the research. Sure, there may be other political motives involved, but politics can help scientific progress and growth.

And of course we may not always agree with the President or scientific progress at hand. There are ethical questions to consider with genetically modified crops polluting the ecosystem, with cloning of animals for food, or with the isolation of embryonic stem cells, but let’s start talking about these subjects like we talk about the ethics of war or illegal immigrants. Right now, both Clinton and Obama support embryonic stem cell research, but what does this mean? What exactly do they support? The creation of new cell lines? Providing federal money to support research using lines created in the private sector? If so, how can they make the public and congress understand the pros and cons of the science? Just saying they support this type of research is not enough- it needs to be discussed. If we begin to hear these issues discussed in the presidential debates, then the conversation will happen amongst the general public. And perhaps this will lead to children taking more interest in science and math and to the public making more informed decisions about what they eat or how they get to work. And perhaps the politicians will begin to understand the impact their daily decisions have. Maybe they will stop just talking about the importance of reducing carbon emissions and global warming and start living their words (Right now the candidates travel frequently, sometimes daily, by private jets to various states on the campaign trail and yet talk about the importance of reducing carbon emissions. And on another point, perhaps they will one day stop cutting down trees to produce and overwhelming amount of flyers and posters that litter the streets during campaign season).

Once our political representatives start talking science the public will as well and this will impact our economy, our health, and our planet in the future. And thanks to a recent grassroots movement, Science Debate 2008, founded and supported by scientists and concerned citizens, a discussion is beginning. Please take a look at this site that is asking for a Presidential debate on science and technology and join the growing number of Nobel Laureates, universities, associations, and citizens that are asking for the next President to care about science and technology in America. All they want is a debate, a discussion. Is that too much to ask for?

Chris Mooney, author of "The Republican War on Science", reminds us why it is so important that our leader be educated and able to learn and adapt to growing science and technology. Take a look a his SEED magazine article, Dr. President, for a snapshot of the issues at hand.

Who am I going to vote for next Tuesday? I don't really know yet. My faith in the political system is not denatured, but I am currently structurally undefined. That does not mean that I will not find my energetically favorable conformation. It will happen. I will walk into that booth, turn the lever and vote for the man or woman who I believe can lead the country into a bright educated future because I know that future is possible. And perhaps sometime between the primary and the general election, the science debate will happen.

Tickle your neurons: Let's start talking science.