Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Scots Ingenuity

John Logie Baird...

The name, come across in a recent edition of The (Glasgow) Herald (date of March 13, I see; it took me some time to catch up recently with my pile of newspapers yet to be read) - heralding an event, called the John Logie Baird Awards, that celebrates current Scottish inventors - has taken me back across the years to my high school days in Southern California. (I am now in my dotage in the north of Scotland.) (Well; not really. The former statement, that is. I can still spend hours reading the papers and following many sites on the Internet, and making sense of it all. ((Trying to, that is. Nothing to do with me.)) I just can't play basketball the way I used to.) I think it was my Junior year, when our school's speaking contest had as its theme the subject of 'biography'. Off I went to my local library to browse on the appropriate shelf, where I first came across this name, and the story of the man behind the invention that was only then beginning to take off in our neck of the proverbial woods. (Our household had a second-generation TV by then, from the very small-screened first of its kind out on the market around 1949, a couple of years previously. Ours was still a small screen, but 'they' had come up with a portable magnifying glass to set in front of it, like a bespectacled scholar's thick lenses.) What a masterful invention.

And it has helped the public gain access to information about the excellent intellectual work of another Scot, with a similar name to boot: that of John Beard. And thereby hangs a blog.

John Beard was a lecturer in embryology at the University of Edinburgh when in 1902 he had published a paper on what has come to be called The Trophoblastic Thesis of Cancer. This is all a little complicated, but the essence of the matter is that he recognised the importance of the pancreas in the developing fetus of a pregnancy in secreting enzymes to help stop the 'job' of some cells, called trophoblast cells, in multiplying and attaching the fetus to the lining of the womb. Invading those cells, precisely like cancer cells do. For - lo and behold - cancer cells and trophoblast cells are one and the same. And thus the similarity between pregnancy hormones and cancer hormones.

Which all started getting recognised over the years of the 20th century, slowly, research step by research step, until a major paper was published in July 1950 - in a journal called The Medical Record ('An International Journal of Medicine and Surgery') - by a father-and-son team, Ernst T. Krebs Sr. and Jr., and one Howard H. Beard. Obviously a relative. And the Krebses honored the work of their 'spiritual' predecessor by conducting their research under the title of the John Beard Memorial Foundation. Out of San Francisco.

I name the location because I visited Ernst T. Krebs Jr. there some years later. In late 1972. By which time I had read enough about cancer and its treatment to know that the public was being led astray from important information about both.

The name of the paper was 'The Unitarian or Trophoblastic Thesis of Cancer'. And what it led to, particularly through this father and son team (the father was a medical doctor, the son a biochemist), was the development of a cancer-fighting substance called Laetrile, aka vitamin B17. Laetrile was/is based on a substance in nature called a nitriloside, which is nature's way of combating cancer. It is found in various sources, but particularly in the seeds of certain fruits - apricots, peaches, plums, apples - and in berries and various grasses. This is the way that animals in the wild avoid getting cancer. And it is why we mammals are coming down with it so much, because the nitrilosides have disappeared out of our western diet to a large extent. The original almond, eg - known as the 'bitter almond' - was high in nitrilosides, but it became bred for a sweeter taste, more pleasing to the palette. But it was the bitterness that contained the operative natural ingredient. Which contains cyanide. Which is what kills the cancer cells.

Selectively. Through a complex, but clear, arrangement of enzymes.* I don't want get bogged down in the details of this matter here. I just want to broach the subject of 'Nature's answer to cancer' - that there is such a thing; and how it has been squelched, by the medical-pharmaceutical complex, employing the government in their destruction of the competition. It is a sorry, sorry tale. And it goes to the main point I want to make in this particular blog.

That being, the difference between the outcomes for the ingenuity of the two similarly-named Scots researchers. In the capitalist economic system, entrepreneurs could make money off John Baird's invention; hence its success. But the Established Order has been threatened by the implications of John Beard's contribution. Hence its burial.

It is part and parcel of the reason why that system has to go. Along with the need to move to a resource-preserving system of social living; not one of constant growth, and planned obsolescence. The planet - mother Earth - needs our undivided attention, now. For us both to survive.

And with the sort of ingenuity that has been demonstrated in the past by the likes of these two estimable Scots, we can do it.

* Briefly: Normal cells contain an enzyme called Rodhanese which neutralizes a substance called amygdalin, thus not allowing it to release the cyanide that is bound up till then. (To the normal cells it only serves as glucose, providing them energy.) In the absence of Rodhanese, the amygdalin is activated, liberating the cyanide radical only inside the malignant cell.

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