Western medicine has been challenged by emerging and developing medical disciplines in recent years, including the emergence of new technologies such as nano-electronic implants and the use of stem cells.
In a paper to be published in the journal Frontiers in Medical Science, neuroscientist and professor of surgery, Dr Michael Maitland, and neurosurgeon, Dr Nick McEvoy, argue that this is because of the inherent difficulties of medicine in the face of new challenges.
“There are very few new therapies that can replace our existing therapies,” Dr Maitlands said.
“But because of this we need to adapt to the challenges that we are facing.
We have a problem with our traditional treatments being ineffective, which is also a problem for the emerging disciplines such as stem cell transplantation and nano-stimulation.””
If we look at the way we use our treatments, we often end up using them on a short term basis.
This has led to a lot of unnecessary deaths and a lot that is unnecessary and wasteful,” he said.
Dr Maitlanders research is focused on the development of novel treatments and the potential use of such therapies in a wide range of medical conditions, from Alzheimer’s disease to traumatic brain injury.
“We know that these new technologies have the potential to improve our quality of life and health outcomes.
They can also reduce suffering and death,” he added.
Dr McEvoys research is focussed on the study of how the brain functions in conditions such as traumatic brain injuries.
“Neurosurgeons and neuroscientists have been looking at how the neurobiology of traumatic brain and cognitive injuries affects our brains functioning,” he explained.
“These neurophysiological changes can also have long term implications for human health.”
Dr McElvoy said he and his colleagues had a unique perspective in examining the relationship between the use and efficacy of traditional and emerging medical therapies.
“Western medicine has a very different relationship to the developing medical field.
There is much more research going on into the neurobiological changes that occur when we have a traumatic brain insult,” Dr McEviloy said.”[The] neuroscientics are very interested in understanding the neural circuitry that allows us to control the behaviour of our bodies.
This is where the research of neuroscienties can play a significant role in advancing our understanding of human behaviour.”
Dr Miela Rennie, a research fellow at the Centre for Medical Research in the UK and a professor of medicine and health sciences at the University of York, said she was not surprised by Dr Maellands work.
“This paper shows that there is a significant difference between the way that western medicine approaches and the way it approaches emerging disciplines like stem cell technology,” she said.
“I am hopeful that this will help us to see that these emerging disciplines have a greater opportunity to make a difference and that we can better understand the way in which our therapies are being used.”
Dr Rennies work focuses on the role of the immune system in the treatment of chronic diseases.
“One of the big challenges in developing new treatments for chronic diseases is that our immune system is highly dysfunctional,” she explained.
“We have seen that a number of diseases are associated with immune dysfunction.
For example, cancer can be associated with chronic inflammation in the gut.””
There is an increasing recognition that the immune systems role in controlling chronic diseases could be improved by developing more targeted therapies to target specific genes in the immune cells.”
Dr Siva Dhingra, associate professor of pathology at the School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore, said that Dr Mielas work could potentially help develop new treatments.
“I think the next step would be to study how the immune mechanisms that control inflammation and immune cell responses in our bodies function in diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative disorders,” she added.