Monday, June 20, 2005

Jane Watson was sick. After calling ahead, she presented to Dr. Bilton's office. Dr. Bilton was relatively new in town, having recently completed a postdoc in molecular disease investigation and treatment.

Jane had a recurrent illness. For almost every one of her 41 years, she had been plagued by this disease. To her dismay, no physician had ever proposed a cure, never mind actually provided one. Her neighbor, Frances, a widow at age 55, had been bragging that Dr. Bilton had cured her curiously similar series of maladies. As a matter of fact, Frances' claims that Dr. Bilton could have cured her husband's cancer were beginning to annoy the coffee clatch/bridge club to which they both belonged.

Anyway, Jane had decided that the next time her disease flared, she would give Frances' miracle doctor a try. She would probably do no better than any of the rest, simply "oh, we'll just have to treat the symptoms. Here, try this and this and ..."

Arriving at the pleasantly appointed office, Jane was both pleasantly surprised and somewhat concerned that the waiting room was empty. "Of course, this means that I don't have to wait, but does it also mean that she is so bad she doesn't have any patients?"

The receptionist, a woman of about 60, blond and very fit appearing, greated her by name and suggested she "Come on around to room 1."

"Well, this is very a very nice office. She must be doing something right to be able to afford this so soon after opening. And no waiting, straight to a room. I approve," thought Jane.

The door to the back hallway opened with a "whoosh" and, like a gentle escort, air flowed from the waiting room. "Oh, we have a negative pressure system. Required, you see, but not necessary in the least," commented Susan, the nurse, greeting her, again by name.

The exam room was pleasantly warm, as Jane disrobed and prepared to meet the woman almost worshiped by her friend and neighbor. Dr. Bilton arrived as she was sitting on the exam table. "Hello, Jane. I'm glad to meet you. Frances mentioned that she suggested you come by. I understand you have been troubled for years by your malady."

"Yes, Dr. Bilton. No one has ever been able to help me."

"I understand. Tell me what's been bothering you."

Jane replied, "Well, it's really not that bad, but every few months, I miss several days of work. I feel so run down. My nose is stuffy and runny at the same time, I feel dizzy, I run a low grade fever, I have a sore throat, dry cough. I just feel miserable."

"I feel for you. I have heard similar complaints for the last few weeks and appreciate how you must be suffering. I think I can help."

After examining her ears, throat and nose and listening to her lungs, Dr. Bilton took a nasal swab and stated, "I'll be back in 20 minutes. Please get dressed."

Sooner than expected, Dr. Bilton returned and stated confidently, "I know I can help you. This problem will be resolved by tomorrow morning."

Somewhat skeptically, Jane blurted, "You're kidding!"

"No, I am not, but your response is very typical. Here, take this capsule with you and follow these directions carefully. You may need to stop at the market on the way home."

Curiosly, Jane read the detailed instructions, along with the list of "ingredients." "This looks like a recipe," she thought.

That night, Jane prepared the "recipe" exactly as prescribed, and added the capsule provided by Dr. Bilton. After watching the mixture bubble for 10 minutes, she drank the lightly sweet cocktail. Soon she was asleep, still not sure.

The capsule dissolved quickly into solution, providing the molecular instruction for the cure. Dr. Bilton had placed the specimen from the nasal swab into the computerized sequencer in her lab, providing a detailed analysis of the virus that had caused Jane's viral syndrome. Yes, the common cold.

The information from the analyzer was a blueprint for the exact "mechanical antibody" required to defeat Jane's virus. The recipe created the exact molecular milleu required for the assemblers in the capsule to replicate the mechanical antibody and continue to do so in Jane's GI system. These antibodies were bound to dendrimers, tree-like nanomolecules. On another branch were nutrients required by the specific virus that was infecting Jane. As the virus concentrated the nutrients, they unknowingly incorporated instructions into their own RNA that changed them from pathologic to healthful.

The next morning, Jane awoke, having experienced the cure to the common cold. As simple as that.