Letter From the JCTS Editor: Normalcy in the Air
Spring is usually a time of renewal and hope – as we look forward after a dark and cold winter with new plans and aspirations. This may turn out to be unexpectedly true this year. As we entered 2021, things looked quite bleak, but it is amazing how the situation has changed over just a few months. The rapid vaccine development and the high degree of vaccination in the United States, even if there is some distance to go, illustrates once again that when the American machinery gets into gear, results will come. The combination of a talented and innovative scientific workforce together with a coordinated and goal-focused federal strategy has clearly brought substantial dividends. While we in some sense can breathe easier and might feel that we can resume a situation from which we were interrupted more than a year ago, there are many things we should learn from the COVID experience. Among other things, this experience has brought to the forefront in very concrete terms the possibility of other looming existential threats, climate change perhaps being one of the most acute.
As the Editor of JCTS I have been both impressed with and pleased to see the many papers submitted that have addressed the COVID situation and the lessons we might draw from this. I invite all of you to read a thematic collection of papers focused on the lessons learned from COVID that will be posted on the JCTS website in the near future. The series is anchored by an Editorial by Chris Austin and colleagues from NCATS, as well as an introductory paper by Barry Coller, John Buse, Bob Kimberley, Bill Powderly and Martin Zand framing the collection of papers. They encourage us to use the COVID experience as a playbook for future pandemics and include some very concrete points to consider. Many other papers in this collection also offers ideas for the future – I warmly recommend all the papers to our readers and to the translational science community.
While the focus on COVID understandably has been intense, the role of climate change has perhaps not so far been a major focus for translational science. Being at a university with a strong environmental and agricultural history and faculty, it is an issue that is much in focus. Not only might climate changes affect the risk of future pandemics, it also presents threats to the species diversity on the planet. This increasing threat has many consequences. In a recent review in JCTS, Peter Stenvinkel and collaborators from the Karolinska Institute describe the many ways we can learn from species diversity in nature through a biomimetic approach. The paper addresses situations relevant to chronic diseases in humans, such as the ways bears handle a massive caloric influx without developing insulin resistance, the approaches by giraffes to manage blood pressure challenges, the heart muscle plasticity of the Burmese python when ingesting massive meals, and many similar evolutionary solutions. This brings up opportunities to understand pathways and mechanisms relevant to many human conditions. It clearly behooves us to protect this species diversity, not only from a planetary health view but also in our own interest to find novel ideas to address hard-to-solve chronic health problems.
Thus, while normalcy indeed may be in the air it will likely not be a return to how things were before COVID. Looking at history, major upheavals have rarely allowed a reset of the baseline but rather spurred new innovations and ideas. It is probably too early to judge whether the “year of COVID” will represent such an upheaval but at least in the translational science field we have learned a thing or two that have staying potential. Hopefully there will be such gains in other areas as well and it will be an exciting year to come.
Lars Berglund, M.D., Ph.D., FAHA
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Clinical and Translational Science (JCTS)
News From the Hill: May 24, 2021
Congress continued to move the annual budget and appropriations process forward. The House closed its Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 member request submission opportunity at the end of April and also held a virtual Outside Witness Hearing for funding recommendations and priorities within the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (LHHS) appropriations bill.
Read more on the ACTS Advocacy page.
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