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COVID: The silver lining

A View From the Edge

In times of extreme duress and depravation — such as we’ve all experienced for almost two years now — you always need to look for the uplifting, the positive and future healing. And, like my family, I am sure you know of horrors and stupidity of friends and acquaintances that pepper these past months. Those recent memories force the optimistic question: What is the benefit to come out of all this? Surely, there must be something to be thankful for, no?

This process of looking for past outcomes to improve your future reminds me of NASA and the oft-posed question: What were the benefits of the race to the moon? Was it only Velcro? Answer (only a handful): CAT scans, new aluminum alloys, printed circuit boards, microchips, LCD screens, fleece, Gore-Tex… in fact every aspect of modern life relies on those inventions and developments in science incubated during the moon program.

COVID (and SARS before) forced science to pick up the challenge and invent — almost out of thin air — new biology protocols to be able to develop vaccines, treatments, anti-viral medications, ventilator redesign and a whole host of other medications (not least helping to treat COVID-caused long-term other ailments). Whilst those miracles (if I can call man’s ingenuity that) may seem obvious there are a few things to remember here: like the Apollo program inventing the microchip and all the changes this has brought the world ever since, the scientifically engineered messenger RNA technology is changing the very way we seek to treat all illnesses, including cancers, Parkinson’s, MS and a host of otherwise treatable but currently not always curable ailments.

Another invention you may not have heard about is a way to mass-manufacture lipid nanoparticles — the tiniest of particles carrying medicine in a targeted way. For the COVID vaccine, they invented manufacturing methods (at Polymun Scientific Immunbiologische Forschung) to make these lipid nanoparticles for everything (in the future) needed to deliver targeted chemotherapies, to nerve rebuilding, to brain tumor eradication.

These nanoparticles can be coded to apply only to the needed area. In other words, why treat the whole bloodstream when you can use the bloodstream as a carrier, dropping medicine only where it is needed? Like the Apollo program, these are not merely jumps in technology, they are leaps over huge obstacles in medicine.

And there is one other benefit of these past two years: You — every one of you — have proved to yourselves and your family that you can deal with the most stressful ordeals, you can adapt your lifestyle, change your eating habits, take control of your individual world, to get through these tough times. Such enforced proving of your capabilities may not have been your choice, but you should be proud, recognize your newfound capabilities, and build from there.

Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now resides in New Mexico.

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