Contrary Life and Technical Fixes - from malaria vaccine to hormone contraceptive

Contrary cover to web

This book describes examples of quirks of evolution that lead to medical problems. For each case the development of a technical fix is described.


1. Malaria - set a vaccine to catch a parasite


The progress of an infection by malaria parasites in a child is followed to its climax and treatment with a drug. How such infections may be reduced amongst humans using a synthetic antigen is told through the story of development of Mosquirix anti-malaria vaccine.

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2. Diabetes - synthetic insulin faces the wider world


The onset of type 1 diabetes in a child is followed as autoimmune disease gradually destroys his insulin producing cells. The invention of recombinant DNA technology had its first large scale use in manufacture of synthetic insulin for improved treatment of diabetes.

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3. Cancer and the antibody called Herceptin


The gradual evolution of a tumor into a breast cancer in a woman is followed as an example of the contrariness of multicellular life. The invention of the monoclonal antibody technique combined with recombinant DNA technology enabled manufacture of the antibody Herceptin to treat those cancers containing the HER-2 protein.

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4. HIV and Retrovir, the first drug against AIDS 

HIV 8cm

A battle is followed between human immunodeficiency virus in a man against the ability of his immune system to defeat new variants of the virus infecting him. The story is told of how a drug originally developed to treat cancer was adapted as Retrovir, the first antiretroviral against AIDS.

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5. Retinal detachment and laser surgery

EYE 8cm

A quirk of evolution has produced a vulnerability in human eyes such that layers of the retina are liable to detach from each other. Laser surgery can repair such damage. The anatomy of this vulnerability and the history of the invention of laser surgery are explained.

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 6. Hormones, pregnancy and the Pill


Hormonal coordination of the activity of cells and organs is followed through the reproductive cycles and pregnancy of a woman. Her wish for effective contraception was met with the combined oral pill. The invention of this pill was a technical inevitability, but the social acceptance of such contraception required a long moral struggle for the rights of women.

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