Serendipity Baby! Part 2
What is serendipity in the scientific world? Simply put, it is making a great discovery by complete accident. Many of our world's greatest finds have been "mistakes." Columbus discovering the New World is an example of how a goof can become gold.
In a post from last July, Just One Suck Can Show A Lot, I wrote about a few serendipitous scientific discoveries. Very recently, however, it seems good luck has struck the scientific community once again.
Katherine L. Schaefer, Ph.D., a research assistant professor within the Department of Medicine, Gastroenterology and Hepatology Division, at the University of Rochester Medical Center and her fellow collegues might have stumbled upon a new treatment for cancer due to a lab SNAFU.
The researchers were originally looking for new ways to reduce inflammation seen in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, bowel diseases that cause pain and diarrhea. Specifically, they were comparing the effect on inflammation of encouraging the action of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma protein (PPARgamma protein) against discouraging it with inhibitor compounds.
The team conducted these experiments using colorectal cancer cells for their experiments because they originate from normal gut cells and share some of their qualities. Unlike normal gut cells, however, cancer cells don't die when removed from the gut wall. That's what makes cancer cells so dangerous. The damn things just don't die. But it also makes them great for studying.
During the experiments with the PPARgamma modulators, the cancer cells kept dying before she could finish gathering data.
“I made a calculation error and used a lot more [PPARgamma proteins] than I should have. And my cells died,” Schaefer said.
Dr. Lawrence J. Saubermann heard her complaining that she kept killing her cancer cells, and quickly realized just what they might have accidently discovered: A potentially new treatment that "pretty much every epithelial tumor cell lines we have seen,” Schaefer reported. (Epithelial cells line organs and also make up skin).
It also killed colon tumors in mice without making the mice sick, the team reported in the journal International Cancer Research.
For fun, here are another few scientific wonders discovered by complete accident:
Velcro. Georges de Mestral was a Swiss engineer that would walk his dog near the Swiss Alps everyday. He noticed that there were these annoying Burdock seeds that would stick to his dog and his clothing. His curiosity got the best of him, and after examining how these seeds stuck to stuff, he invented the hook and loop fastener system used in Velcro. Drunken idiots that don the Velcro suit and hurl themselves against a loop-stripped wall thank you.
Asparatime. James Schlatter, a G.D. Searle & Co. chemist, was working on a new tetrapeptide in connection with an anti-ulcer project they were working on. He accidentally spilled some aspartylphenylalanine methyl ester on his hand. Later in the day, he licked his fingers to pick up a piece of paper and tasted something very sweet. He went back to the lab and tasted what was left over in a test tube (something I don't recommend other chemists to try). Sure enough, it was tasty! Dieters and diabetics thank you.
The World Wide Web. Despite what many think, Al Gore did not invent the internet. Two physics researchers, Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreesen wanted to build a tool for researchers at CERN (a Swiss Physics laboratory) could exchange ideas and publish papers. The two put together a language called HTML, a system called ENQUIRE, and a browser called Mosaic. And the world wide web was born. Horny people downloading porn thank you.