"Society does not care about molecular structure; it cares if a pill lowers blood pressure. Let's get practical. Chemistry neds an overhaul if it is to solve big global problems and advance fundamental understanding." George M. Whitesides and John Deutch, Harvard University
I agree with this quote. Diseases, whether they are from genetic causes (cystic fibrosis, Tay Sachs, Downs syndrome), infections (MRSA) or from a disruption of balance (Alzheimers, cancer), are much more complex than we thought. Treatments need to be much more advanced than what we have today, if we are to solve these problems.
It took over 2000 years to understand the chemical pathway of aspirin. A 5th century BC Greek physician wrote of a bitter powder that came from the bark of the willow tree, and noticed it eased pains and reduced fever. It was isolated in crystalline form in 1828 by Henri Leroux. The less irritating replacement, acetylsalicylic acid was marketed by Bayer in 1899. We’ve come along way to understand this, and this is only the beginning.
Today is an exciting time for drug discovery. Scientists are inventing new technologies to detect, diagnose, and treat patients all over the world in a way they haven’t been able to before. For the first time, silica nanoparticles are being injected into cancer cells, allowing surgeons to see where they need to open a patient pre-operatively. Tissue lining from the esophogus, ridden with cancer, is being removed and replaced with de-cellularized membranes, then being replaced back into the body, and allowing cells to regrow to form new tissue. It all sounds like Frankenstein science to me (or magic), but it works, and that is even more fascinating. Thinking outside the box is the future of medicine. And scientists are taking bizarre ideas and making them work!
For more reading, I encourage you to read: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/09/30/the-smallest-revolution-five-recent-breakthroughs-in-nanomedicine/