We are in a golden age of biology and medicine, according to neuroscientist Freda Miller.
Just a decade or two ago, we knew very little about the brain. But today we are witnessing leaps being made in technology, and the increasingly collaborative nature of research is propelling our understanding forward.
Where the brain used to be a black box, researchers are so close to understanding how it works that it’s possible to start rationally designing drugs to treat the injured brain.
Miller, a researcher at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and collaborator at the University of Toronto’s Medicine by Design, is working to provide a clearer picture of how brain stem cells can help the brain heal.
“You cannot fix something that you don’t understand,” says Miller. “The brain has been like a black box for decades and decades. People have been fascinated with it and they’ve only been able to find little tiny things out about it. And honestly, coming up with a rational therapeutic has been a pipe dream.”
This is all starting to change, starting with a better understanding of the biology of the brain. Miller and her team are working to build a more complete understanding of brain stem cells so that she can understand how to tweak them to trigger repair following injury.
“Even before a paper is published,” says Miller, “if you have a great idea, especially with something like Medicine by Design, you can go to your colleagues immediately and start moving down the therapeutic road.”
That means that in this golden age of biology and medicine, the gap between making a discovery and using that discovery to help patients in the clinic is getting smaller every day.