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Received date October 07, 2013; Accepted date October 08, 2013; Published date October 10, 2013
Citation: Chapple W (2013) Anatomy and Physiology in the Modern Era: Blurring the Borders of Traditional Disciplines. Anat Physiol 3:e125. doi:10.4172/2161-0940.1000e125
Copyright: © 2013 Chapple W. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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This editorial discusses the attempt to specialize in a discipline of medical science while working with the vastly interconnected, transcending and diverse organism of the human body. Highlighted is the importance of breadth of knowledge as well as interdisciplinary collaboration. Commensal microflora is discussed as an example of a non-traditional area of study that has a role in many different systems. Finally, clinical research is used to generate new research questions and to shine a light on the possibility of new areas and fields of basic science research.
The practice and science of medicine has slowly but continuously expanded beyond the segregated disciplines that have been passed to us from our forbearers. For example, a cell’s machinery is subject to genetic heritance [1,2]. Genetic heritance is subject to the epigenetic factors that facilitate gene expression or post-translational modification. These epigenetic factors may have been influenced by endocrine secretions, which in turn may have been influenced by physical activity, diet or a psychological state [3-6]. Yet our social and economic environments have influenced even these factors. So when examining the function and population of a cell’s organelles, one must even consider the psychological and nutritional status of the cell's source. In a broad sense, we must remember external validity and study an object in the context in which we desire the results to be useful.
The seemingly endless interplay of factors that integrate a multitude of disciplines can and should be considered when we are examining a problem in medical science. This is the blooming era of systems thinking. Modern medical schools train a physician to consider the economic, social, cultural, spiritual and public health factors during a patient visit [7,8]. This may affect the presentation of the diagnosis and treatment plan, the types of treatment, or even the brand of medication. Similar to the astute physician, the medical science researchers should consider the breadth in addition to the depth of a research question . This is important when considering what research to undertake; who does this help, how does this help and is this the best use of our global community’s resources ? A good knowledge base outside of one’s discipline is also very helpful when planning an experiment. Adequate breadth of knowledge can help us plan for confounding factors .
The bacterial ecosystem is often a forgotten part of human anatomy and physiology, and it offers a good example of how we approach a new frontier of physiology. It is well established that disruptions of our commensal microflora can affect pathophysiology- bacterial vaginitis and clostridium difficile for example. Recent research would have us consider the anti-inflammatory effects, immune modulating effects, enteric and central nervous system effects, endocrine effects, and nutritional effects of commensal microflora [12,13]. Should we now loosely consider commensal microflora as yet another essential gastrointestinal organ with wide ranging effects?
In some instances a breakthrough in anatomy or physiology can lead to a new treatment for a patient, which is often drug targets or more recently deep brain stimulation. However, research of a treatment can also lead to a breakthrough in anatomy or physiology. In regards to the latter, one has to ask why a randomized blinded trial of intercessory prayer (prayer by an outside group for participants in a study) would show statistically significant improvement in spiritual, emotional and functional well being . One should also ask how a Chinese qigong practitioner could repeatedly make structural changes to an aqueous solution at the molecular level from 1,900 km away, while a control remains unchanged. Or how external qigong enables growth of fab protein crystals in a controlled trial that negates any effect from electrical fields, magnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, ultrasonic radiation, or chemical reactions . The answer may be found in the very real and very new field of quantum physics . Most of the research that links positive thinking, meditation, and yoga to healthy physiology and anatomy can be explained by modern understanding of neurological, immune and endocrine pathways or basic principles of physics [17-19]. But the studies previously mentioned account for these factors and urge us to explore new horizons. Is it time for anatomy and physiology, like neuropsychology before it , to consider or even explore the influence of the tiny quantum world beyond the atom.
In summary, the more we know about anatomy and physiology the more we have to understand genetics, microbiology, physics, psychology, biochemistry, kinesiology, nutrition and much more. Modern society has amassed a large body of knowledge that is readily available to the world today. Discoveries throughout the centuries have increasingly blurred the borders of the disciplines that we work in. Now more than ever, breadth of knowledge, collaboration and interdisciplinary teams are essential to the success and accuracy of medical science research and clinical medicine today. Furthermore, we must keep looking to the future- riding the wave of recent advances in the fields of medical science.