Yesterday was an unusual news day here in Norway. Two events of major (and global) importance occurred, both involved Norwegians, and both received the news coverage they merited. Surprisingly enough, while the two news stories were quite disparate in topic, both involved science and medicine. The first story was that May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their groundbreaking and fascinating work on the brain’s internal GPS mechanism. They share the prize with their former supervisor, neuroscientist John O’Keefe at University College London. If you want to read about their work, I recommend an excellent article in Nature that you will find here: http://www.nature.com/news/neuroscience-brains-of-norway-1.16079
The second story, less happy, was that Norway now joins the list of countries that must deal with the Ebola virus; a Norwegian woman who works for Doctors without Borders in Sierra Leone was confirmed to be infected with the virus and flown back to Oslo for treatment last evening. She will be quarantined in the isolation ward at Oslo University Hospital—Ullevål location. There was a press conference on TV last night to announce this development and to inform the public that there was no cause for alarm; that Norway can handle this case as it has prepared and trained for such eventualities at different hospitals. The medical professionals also assured the public that everything is under control, which is likely true.
If ever there is doubt as to the importance of medical research, these two news stories are proof that research is necessary. With regard to the brain’s internal GPS, this work may be crucial to the eventual understanding of what happens to Alzheimer’s patients, since losing one’s sense of direction/location is an early symptom of this disease. Those individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s may eventually benefit from treatment that could evolve from this research. With regard to the Ebola virus, the humanitarian crisis in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea points out the need for increased medical research into cures for this virus and others like it. Luckily, there are researchers who want to study these areas in the hope of finding cures. Society should continue to do all it can to support their tireless efforts.