Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace with Prof. H. Robert Horvitz, 2002 Nobel Laureate - Medicine, 16 March 2009


Today is really a memorable day for me and my friends as we attended a lecture on Biomedical Science, World Health and World Peace in UKM, Bangi by Nobel Laureate Prof. Dr. H. Robert Horvitz (Medicine, 2002).

Ok, let’s dun get too formal(ok the intro is quite formal though).Let me begin with some intro on the speaker.

“He’s a wise man, a double degree holder-Engineering Mathematics and Economics but also the same person who received 2002 Nobel Prize in Medicine as a microbiologist. Feel stunted? I bet you haven’t. A person who discover programmed cell death- an active biological in human body( tell you more later) and illuminate the future with hope in curing cancers, neurodegenerative diseases- just to mention a few. To state strings of award he received- I think this page can’t hold enough words for it (you can go to to know more about him). He is also the very person that actually give a one hour lecture on his research which he took tens of years to find the significant breakthrough in a very simple and fun way that made his audiences ranging from medical specialist to biomedical students…also A- level student like me as well as to laymen who just feel free to attend the event fully understand to his topic.

Gee, good to have a lecturer like him and indeed feel awesome to actually sit the very front seat( just in front of him) and listen a lecture by a Nobel Laureate, a Harvard Phd graduate, a member of USA National Science Academy and close personnel to President Barack Obama. Gosh, I think I just can’t stop describing him already.

Alrite, let’s get into the topic and my latest experience sitting like one of the prominent Parliament Senator in the UKM Senate Room and got the best seat there…..awesome.

Chairman of International Peace Foundation, Mr. Uwe Morawetz, an inspired and dedicated man to bring peace to the world by means of dialogue…my idol as well…first greeted me, had a warm handshake with him and a tête-à-tête as well. With throngs of people started to swarm the hall and fill up spaces, I anxiously anticipated my other friends who were on their way from KTT in a Kancil taxi. As I waited for them outside the hall, their seats had been swap and filled by the management so as to fill up empty spaces without me realising it. I really got fumed and feel sorry as Li Yan, Fikri, Phyllis and Hoh had to be seated in another hall. Sorry everyone.

The wood- laden doors then closed and the event began. An intriguing slideshow of UKM achievement and speech by both Mr. Morawetz and Vice Chancellor of UKM welcomed us and followed by the lecture by Prof. Robert Horvitz.

The lecture…

Well, it started off with a bang as the Prof looking man crack a lame joke…you know what I mean.*Laughter* about his daughter and his Nobel prize…a gold medal, some cash as well as a certificate- a “Diploma” according to him.
Then, serious part began.

His explanations on his research works, programmed cell death( apopstosis ) and it’s application were actually really informative and made me realise the interconnection between cell-cell relationship to human-human’s. How, let me illustrate it…

Okay, programmed cell death works in a series of pathway. It’s an active biological process where cellular suicide occur. In normal condition, it helps to control number of human cell to prevent it from too little(excess cell death) or too much(insufficient cell death). What happen if it really malfunction? Well, the former condition can cause disease like Alzheimer, Parkinson, AIDS, just to name a few while the latter will cause cancer eg. blastoma and lymphoma and others. So, it consists of several genes in our body to regulate the process, namely the Killers- BH-3, caspase and Apaf-1 (egl-1,ced-3, and ced-4 in C. elegans) and the Protector- BCL-2 ( ced-9).

In the roundworm, C. elegans…it functions like this…

egl-1 ----> ced-9 ----> ced -4 ------> ced-3 ---> cell is killed
inhibit inhibit activate

So, in other words, egl-1 functions to prevent ced-9(the Protector/ anti-death gene) from preventing ced-4 to activate ced-3(the executor) to do the killing. It’s seems more like an organisation of a murder plot right? The more interesting is after cell is killed, it’s get rid by being engulf by other cell and degrade. In C.S.I. context, it’s actually

1) identify victim ( which cell to undergo apopstosis)
2) kill the victim ( apopstosis)
3) get rid of the corpse ( engulfment)
4) clear all evidence ( degradation)

Get the idea how programmed cell death work? Believe it or not, this is exactly how the Prof explained!

The thoughts…

This also made me realised the relationships that I had mentioned. In that context, we can see that two totally contrasting gene function actually work together to ensure apopstosis occur in the normal way too prevent the diseases mentioned due to their malfunction. They really depend on each other to bring out the desired outcome despite they can be said as rivals. Without the killer, we are in risk of cancer, without the protector, we risk of Alzheimer and Parkinson. Thus, it has come to my consciousness that actually the world resemble the cell in which there are always groups with contrasting view points and they ought to live with each other or they will have no such groups if one of them are missing or stand at the same belief, literally. The molecular world is actually the template to how human- resemble the gene should live with each other. We should make our ultimate difference as our strength to achieve our common and desired goal. However, mankind mostly does not realise this. We need the difference in each and everyone of us to live life better, a constant regulator in our living in every aspect. We may be different and we will always be as that the true beauty of life. We may be different in the way of conduct of our living but we will always looking and heading towards a common end. The ultimate goal of life is not made from same belief and stands but the unity of our difference. This is the fundamental of world peace.

A quotation by Prof. H. Robert Horvitz to me,
" No gene is an Island"

I daringly put the Prof research work in my analogy and ask his opinion on this in front of the videos and cameras’ lens as well as the audiences comprise of high ranking personnel, prominent and biology intellectuals, doctors and specialist, lecturers and university students of medical and sciences field as well as the Vice Chancellor of UKM herself, YBhg. Prof. Dato’ Dr. Sharifah. I thought I’ll be a laughing stock of the whole Senate Room but it turn out to be the one of the best moment in my life. Eye-to-eye Q&A with the Prof replying positively to my rather absurd question, highlighted by the Vice Chancellor in her closing speech and listened by so many field specialist and intellectual, it’s really an unforgettable experience for me.

This may be my last Bridges- IPF event this year and I'm satisfied and have no more regrets.
Certainly I am looking forward to attend next event on the topic- Contemplating The Universe in Putrajaya...but Pre A2 is coming as well.

In the next post, I will share with you analysis from the Bridges-IPF event.
Adios for now...

Posted by A Blog Inspired by Others... at 10:42 AM