A few years ago when my spouse took his current position, I decided to “gracefully” close down my laboratory. I enjoyed studying and writing about puberty, sex, and the kidney for twenty years, but lack of funding finally brought me down. I was lucky; being an MD, I had other skills to keep my faculty position.
I no longer play with new scientific gizmos in the lab. I do miss exploring questions of the how and why the kidneys do what they do. I still have some clinical studies going, but my days mostly consist of caring for children with kidney disease.
Because medicine is physiology.
Let’s take a common healthcare example. You go to your doctor because of seasonal allergies. Your symptoms of runny, itchy nose make you crazy, interfering with your sleep and work. Whatever your allergen, it triggers the release of histamine which induces itching and swelling in the nasal passage. These physiological changes can be ameliorated by blocking the histamine. Such drugs (Benadryl; Claritin; Zyrtec) form the first-line therapy. If they do not get the job done, other physiological systems of nasal inflammation can be blocked. Glucocorticoids (Flonase; Nasocort), the anti-inflammatory steroids, can be given as nasal sprays. Montelukast (Singular) blocks leukotriene receptors and prevents the allergic inflammatory response through another pathway. Now some individuals would say this example was immunology or pharmacology, but I would argue that understanding how the body responds to an allergen falls under the umbrella of physiology. We also have to know this physiology before we can design the pharmacology.
Perhaps my example has not convinced you. Who am I, after all? Just a random pediatric nephrologist who likes to write online. You want an opinion from recognized authority, damn it!
Remember, the Nobel Prize is for Physiology or Medicine. If the Nobel committee considers these fields so closely bonded, then who are we to question it?
That is why I am in San Diego, blogging a very basic science meeting. It’s not just for fun; it will make me a better physician.