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Precision - The Magic Bullet


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I recall reading about the history of medicine and one interesting topic is the concept of The Magic Bullet which is basically a drug that zeroes in on the putative cause of an illness (bug/cancer/etc.), avoiding all healthy tissue, and takes them out in a manner of speaking.

Such an idea has been worked on with considerable progress made in the military: precision munitions, heat-seeking and guided missiles, tactical nuclear weapons, and so on.

The objective is the same in both medicine and weaponry: a sniper rifle instead of a machine gun.

However, more ground has been covered in arms than in drugs.

Is there an opportunity for comparing/sharing notes between killing (the military) and saving (medicine)? The magic bullet!

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4 hours ago, Agent Smith said:

I recall reading about the history of medicine and one interesting topic is the concept of The Magic Bullet which is basically a drug that zeroes in on the putative cause of an illness (bug/cancer/etc.), avoiding all healthy tissue, and takes them out in a manner of speaking.

Such an idea has been worked on with considerable progress made in the military: precision munitions, heat-seeking and guided missiles, tactical nuclear weapons, and so on.

The objective is the same in both medicine and weaponry: a sniper rifle instead of a machine gun.

However, more ground has been covered in arms than in drugs.

Is there an opportunity for comparing/sharing notes between killing (the military) and saving (medicine)? The magic bullet!

Generally not, I would have thought. The technologies involved are so different.

But I seem to recall reading there are therapies that can "mark" a tissue for destruction, by an agent that is introduced subsequently and which acts selectively on the tissue that has been marked. This could be considered, superficially at least, a bit like the illumination of a military target by a laser. Maybe someone with medical knowledge can comment on whether my recollection has any basis in fact.

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While I would hesitate to call a nuclear weapon a precision instrument, there are treatments in medicine that you can describe as precise.

Proton therapy, for example. You send a beam of protons at a tumor, and tune the energy so that the protons will deposit the bulk of their energy in the tumor rather than the healthy tissue, so you disrupt the tumor.

(They have a proton therapy center at TRIUMF, where I did a postdoc)

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Perhaps antibody therapy for relevant cancers  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22437872/  and https://www.criver.com/eureka/magic-bullets-the-next-evolution-in-targeted-cancer-therapy

and the term has meaning in the history of micrpbiology https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/syphilis-cure-magic-bullet-180964644/

Edited by PhilGeis
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Even vaccines work that way.
They provide a blueprint ( or a map, if you like the GPS guided bomb analogy ), so that you body's own defenses can target the specific intrusive virus, with antibodies.

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20 hours ago, MigL said:

Even vaccines work that way.
They provide a blueprint ( or a map, if you like the GPS guided bomb analogy ), so that you body's own defenses can target the specific intrusive virus, with antibodies.

Good point.   And the mRNA-based vaccines ever more of a focused magic bullet.

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  • 8 months later...
On 3/18/2022 at 4:28 PM, exchemist said:

Generally not, I would have thought. The technologies involved are so different.

But I seem to recall reading there are therapies that can "mark" a tissue for destruction, by an agent that is introduced subsequently and which acts selectively on the tissue that has been marked. This could be considered, superficially at least, a bit like the illumination of a military target by a laser. Maybe someone with medical knowledge can comment on whether my recollection has any basis in fact.

Interesting! Gracias.

On 3/18/2022 at 4:38 PM, swansont said:

While I would hesitate to call a nuclear weapon a precision instrument, there are treatments in medicine that you can describe as precise.

Proton therapy, for example. You send a beam of protons at a tumor, and tune the energy so that the protons will deposit the bulk of their energy in the tumor rather than the healthy tissue, so you disrupt the tumor.

(They have a proton therapy center at TRIUMF, where I did a postdoc)

This is also interesting! Merci.

On 3/19/2022 at 9:57 PM, PhilGeis said:

Antibodies, are they the most specific antmicrobials in the body's arsenal? Arigato.

On 3/20/2022 at 1:08 AM, MigL said:

Even vaccines work that way.
They provide a blueprint ( or a map, if you like the GPS guided bomb analogy ), so that you body's own defenses can target the specific intrusive virus, with antibodies.

Vaccines, last I checked, work their magic via antibodies .

To All

The body's natural defenses are what we should be working on but that's not to say if a magic bullet can be found we shouldn't use it, oui mes amies?

Before I forget, thanks to all contributors.

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