La impugnación del saber establecido

CAMBRIDGE – Cuando acabé mis estudios de licenciatura en 1974, tuve la fortuna de trabajar con Judah Folkman, de la Facultad de Medicina de Harvard. El Dr. Folkman tenía la teoría de que se podía detener el avance de los tumores cortando su fuente de alimentación. Indicó que los tumores emitían una substancia llamada factor de angiogénesis tumoral, que hace que los vasos sanguíneos crezcan hacia él, con lo que le aportan alimentación y eliminan sus desechos. Folkman formuló la hipótesis de que ese proceso, la angiogénesis, es decisivo para la supervivencia de un tumor.

Esa teoría contradecía profundamente el saber establecido. Los científicos que examinaron las comunicaciones de Folkman sobre sus investigaciones suvencionadas dijeron que los nuevos vasos sanguíneos se debían simplemente a la inflamación, pero Folkman perseveró y con el tiempo demostró que semejantes substancias químicas existen efectivamente. Actualmente, cuatro decenios después, se han utilizado dichas substancias para tratar a más de diez millones de personas con enfermedades neovasculares, como, por ejemplo, la degeneración macular y muchas formas diferentes de cáncer.

Yo tuve una experiencia semejante cuando trabajaba en su laboratorio, al intentar aislar los primeros inhibidores del crecimiento de vasos sanguíneos (que eran substancias de gran peso molecular), para lo que hacía falta crear un bioensayo que nos permitiría observar la inhibición del crecimiento de los vasos sanguíneos en presencia de tumores.

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