In the last several months a couple topics have piqued my interest much more than I previously imagined they would.
(1) Conflict in Ukraine: My initial attraction to Ukraine’s plight stems from my genealogical connection–my mom’s grandparents emigrated from there. But it’s grown beyond that as I’ve watched the Euromaidan and subsequent war unfold.
Along the way I’ve learned about the history, people, culture, economy, religion, and politics in the region. Eighteen months ago I knew very little about any of it. I’m hardly an expert now, but I do know something.
Although the War in Eastern Ukraine receives only intermittent U.S. news media coverage, it’s one of the important foreign policy issues we face. This doesn’t have the ideological makeup of Cold War 2.0, as some have described it. But it does jeopardize Eastern European stability.
(2) Research on the human microbiome: This, too, has a personal angle. I have psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disorder which is not well understood at all. We don’t know what causes it, what triggers the inflammation, why drugs to relieve symptoms work (or more often, don’t work) . . . it’s a big mystery.
But there’s a growing body of research linking these kinds of diseases to the microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract, where most of the immune system resides.
For example, one small study shows that people with psoriatic arthritis have below normal levels of multiple intestinal bacteria.
Of course correlation does not equal causation, and we’re years away from translating these discoveries into new therapies, much less a cure. But this kind of thing gives me hope that we’ll someday get there. So I like to keep up on research news.