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A Time to Collaborate

Dr. Ayelet Erez is dually trained, as a pediatrician and a geneticist. During her post-doctoral studies, Dr. Erez came across a patient with a rare genetic disorder. The child lacked the gene for an enzyme necessary to synthesize the amino acid arginine. The child suffered from persistent, intractable high blood pressure.

The connection between the missing enzyme and the various symptoms the boy suffered from were a mystery to doctors, who were helpless to treat his condition. What happened next is a classic example of the power of collaboration between basic science and medical research. Dr. Erez successfully developed a mouse model with the same genetic defect, and discovered that the missing enzyme is also necessary for the production of nitrous oxide, a substance that is found throughout the body and has many effects on the cell. Lack of nitrous oxide was the cause of this boy’s dangerously high blood pressure. The simple solution was to administer supplemental nitrous oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, and the boy’s condition immediately improved.

“The combination of clinical experience and research enabled me to succeed,” says Erez, “and it gave me a lot of personal satisfaction – as a doctor, a scientist and a mother.” Dr. Erez currently works in clinical genetics and cancer research, and combines her research at the Weitzman Institute with clinical practice in the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv.

Collaboration is the name of the game in scientific research today.

Biologists work closely with computer scientists to produce advanced biomedical equipment. Physicists work on genetic engineering, and researchers in artificial intelligence use discoveries in neuroscience to build more sophisticated robots. There is no field of science left that is isolated, that does not draw heavily on discoveries from different fields. In fact, it’s considered the height of creativity when one can draw upon research from one field and apply them to a problem in a different field.

It’s clear today that to succeed, we must all work together and share information, in all areas. The post-modern scientist in some ways is returning to the master-of-all-fields model, the doctor-engineer-philosopher-astronomer-musician, otherwise known as the “Renaissance man.”

This development is surprising, since it follows more than two centuries of increasing specialization in the sciences. There is so much to know within their own field that researchers have a hard time keeping out with discoveries outside of it.

However, in truth this development is not so surprising. Chassidic teachings describe a time when all knowledge will be revealed to us. “The earth will be filled with knowledge of G-d, as water covers the ocean.” Once we have access to G-d Himself, all mysteries of the world will naturally be open before us. Indeed, all the world is His, and through knowing Him, we come to know everything.



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