Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Vector Red: Gene Therapy Blessing or Curse - Latest Brilliant Novel by Lawrence W. Gold, M.D.

Author's Note: Some years ago in a speech on health policy, President George W. Bush issued this warning: "The powers of science are morally neutral, and we can use them for good or bad." In the excitement of discovery, he said, "We must never forget that mankind is defined not by intelligence alone, but by conscience." He went on to say that, "Even the most noble ends do not justify every means."
Science gives us the opportunity to remake the natural world, but does mankind have the ability to decide how best to do it?
Do we want to do good, or do we choose to do what can be done?
The evolution of CRISPR/Cas9 technology with its vast potential to do good or evil, will come with a price. We will need the wisdom to define its use in all biological systems, but particularly in humans.
Altering a person's cells can change today, altering germ cells will change the future of mankind.

The bacterium, Serratia used in this novel, is one of many common and benign environmental bacteria. Some strains carry reddish-orange color pigment. When colonies of these strains are grown in the laboratory, the pigment is apparent within a day and breaks down in light. The red pigment is responsible for many reports from antiquity onward of the sudden appearance of blood or blood on food, fabric, or inanimate objects. Many "miracles" from the Middle Ages on were the result of the growth of Serratia being interpreted as the blood of Christ.

Choosing to read a novel by Lawrence W. Gold, M.D. promises an excellent medical thriller, normally about something that is timely, and about which we will see an ethical evaluation of that issue, mostly provided through the beloved main character, Dr. Jacob Weizman, who at age 88 looked much like Sigmund Freud, with thick gray hair and matching full beard, and spoke with a soft, Austrian accent. His wife Lola, a psychologist, is also a series lead character, who just happens to look like... Dr. Ruth!

The Brier Hospital Series is the best long-standing medical thriller series I've read. Dr. Gold practiced internal medicine and nephrology (diseases of the kidney) but he was also an active participant in the hospital's quality assurance program... I would imagine that the latter brought him into discussions on the many medical issues that are in the news today. As the Author's Note indicated, anything that is discovered through scientific study can be used for good or bad. I praise the author for continuing to illustratively share these issues through fictional tales that normally set a "what-if" situation for readers to ponder along with the suspenseful stories. For this novel, I was also amazed to learn about Serratia and its appearance having been interpreted as miracles... While not discounting that miracles do occur, it was nevertheless illuminating to learn that some of those events where it was assumed that sudden blood appearing represented Christ's blood, could actually have been common bacteria.  Another thing to ponder as we learn more about the natural world around us...

Vector Red delves into Gene Therapy, raising the question whether it is a Blessing or Curse? I have never doubted that it is right to scientifically advance anything that can help improve human life. The problem is, as we well know, not everybody uses those discoveries for that purpose.

And that's how the latest story began... After a brief prologue in which we learn of the outbreak of something not known by those at the Brier Hospital, the book is divided into two parts and 470 pages! The first, sharing the story of the research scientists involved with the development/creation of what has turned into a serious, unknown outbreak... 

The first part of the book shares the lives of two geniuses who were close friends and who had known each other since they were kids...But they had moved in different scientific directions although later in life had both wound up at Fort Detrick. 

Without telling any of what led to that crisis situation, I do want to say that it began as a means to seek revenge, but also had been made worse by accident, which is even scarier! In this case, the only salvation, was that two of the researchers, who were also involved in studying biological weapons, had seen the need to also study what could be done to prevent death from bioweapons... Thankfully...

The second part covers the family interaction with the medical staff who are trying to save their two daughters from something unknown that has already killed. Jacob had been the family doctor for many years and he acts as liaison between them and the team working to discover what it is that has placed their daughters near death...

It was during a time when three young missionaries were visiting a native tribe and having returned home, one was brought to Brier Hospital with a rash and low-grade fever. (It was later discovered that many at the Indian reservation also developed the rash...)

Then the rash erupted into skin lesions! Sara, the patient, went into shock... And none of the medical staff had any idea was it was they were facing. Sara was immediately rushed into ICU isolation.

In the meantime, another of the team members had died and Sara's sister, who had went on a trip with her fiancee did not immediately show the signs of the rash, but was brought in soon...

Without telling any of what led to that crisis situation, I do want to say that it began as a means to seek revenge, but also had been made worse by a chemical accident. In this case, the only salvation, was that two of the researchers, who were also involved in studying biological weapons, had seen the need to also study what could be done to prevent death from such bioweapons... Thankfully...

While there is intense discussions about the scientific activities behind the story, I found, as I often do, the character development mainly drew my attention. The range of personal emotions and negative reactions of a few intimately involved in the emergency situation versus the majority of those who were doing everything possible to identify and move toward a solution revealed the dedication of those who routinely serve to help save human lives. It is heart-warming for readers to see how medical specialists work together in today's crazy world where just a few can potentially cause such devastation.

Another brilliant, remarkable, true-to-life, fascinating story by Lawrence W. Gold, M.D. set as a Medical Thriller... Highly recommended!


I was born in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, moved to Queens, and then, as New Yorkers say, we ascended to the Island.
After graduating from Valley Stream Central High School, I went to Adelphi, a college then, a university now, and then to medical school in Chicago.
The war in Vietnam interrupted my postgraduate training with a year in Colorado Springs and another as a Battalion Surgeon in Vietnam. I spent seven months in the Central Highlands with the 4th Infantry and five months in an evacuation hospital in Long Binh outside Saigon where I ran the emergency room.
I returned intact in 1968 to complete my training in internal medicine and diseases of the kidney, nephrology.
I worked for twenty-three years in Berkeley, California in a hospital-based practice caring for patients with complicated illnesses often in ICU and served as Chief of Medicine.
My wife Dorlis and I retired in October 1995 and sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge for a life at sea in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
Four years later, exhausted from repairing everything on board, (often many times) we sold the sailboat and within a year took the lazy man's out; we bought a Nordic Tug, a trawler. We motored around Florida, the Bahamas, the entire East Coast and completed two 'Circle trips' to Canada and back, eight months, the first time, five months, the second.
I wrote professionally as a physician to inform but rarely to entertain, at least not on purpose.
First, Do No Harm was published in April 2007. No Cure for Murder was released in August 2011. For the Love of God was published in January 2012 and The Sixth Sense in July 2012.
In the last two years, I've written three screenplays based on my novels and hope to see one or more produced for the screen. I submitted my screenplay, Rage to the 80th Annual Writer's Digest contest and won honorable mention (57 out of 11,000).
We live in beautiful Grass Valley with 13 year old Mike, a terrier mix and Bennie, a 7 year old purebred though enormous Yorkie.

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