Yesterday I began to talk about the natural world of healing and the story of trying to copy molecules from the natural world to synthesize drugs in the laboratory. We talked briefly about Pasteur’s discovery of chirality and how most molecules in the world are left-handed. When molecules are produced in the laboratory some come out right-handed and this may or may not have devastating side effects.
Back in the 1950s when I was a child running newspapers house to house, I remember seeing pictures in those newspapers of babies with malformed limbs–flippers instead of hands and feet. These were the thalidomide babies. Pregnant women were taking thalidomide for morning sickness. They thought the drug was safe because the German drug industry did not know the right-handed molecular form was going to cause defects in left-handed biology, the woman’s unborn child. Unfortunately, it took the thalidomide babies to bring the havoc that right-handed molecules can wreak, to the light. Now scientists had to figure out how to remedy this problem.
It was not until William Knowles began playing around with rhodium in 1968 and hit upon the chiral rhodium catalyst that the mass production of left-handed molecules was realized and the beginning of modern drug synthesis began. A wonderful history of the entire development of synthetic drugs, with all of its twists and turns, epiphanies and disappointments, can be found in Chapter 10 of Sam Kean’s book The Disappearing Spoon.
It causes me to wonder on this Walking with Him Wednesday about all the mysteries of the natural world. I guess we won’t know all until we reach heaven and then we won’t need a pharmacy. I am grateful, however, that God has provided answers within His creation, that He has not forsaken us. He could have. We were the ones that chose disease. He made us perfect. Appropriately in Colossians 2:2 Paul says, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.” The more I know about the natural world, the more I am convinced of a grand design, and that grand design shouts, “I love you!”
We’re heading toward Good Friday, and I shout with Tony Campolo, “but, Easter is coming!”