Background information concerning the topics of the Seventh Symposium of the IIfTC

Introduction to the theme: "Foundational Issues in Molecular Cardiology. New Avenues at the Interface of Molecular Biology and Cardiology"

The past decade has witnessed rapid progress in the field of cardiovascular research. New concepts and methodologies from cellular, developmental and molecular biology have been introduced, notably techniques of mutating molecules and studying their function in vitro and experimental models of transgenic animals. Awareness increasingly grows that there is an urgent need of integrating the new molecular approaches with traditional approaches in physiology and pharmacology.

An editorial in the renowned journal "Circulation Research" stated: "This combination of the reductive power of cellular and molecular biology together with integrative strength of organ and whole animal physiology presages the dawn of a new, more productive era for cardiovascular science. […]. To take full advantage of the potential of this new integrative approach will require a combination of skills that now are, for the most part, in the realm of different groups of investigators" (Nadal-Ginard, B. [ed.]. Cellular and molecular biology of the cardiovascular system. Circulation Research 1992; 71:1-2).

How should we conceive this integrative approach? Is it a process of synthesis in which elements from both sides are put together? Or is it more like, as often is suggested, a one-way process in which 'non-molecular' fields of science have to accept the rapid progress in molecular biology? What kind of skills are involved and how to communicate these?

We feel these questions have a deeper foundational basis, particularly so because new communication processes in medicine have to be created. The issue is whether the new science of molecular biology addresses questions and problems in such a way that the clinical scientists as well as the cardiologists have to provide other kinds of clinical information in order to develop basic concepts. If so, then concepts and methodologies in clinical medicine have to fundamentally change, not merely to adjust its practice to the progress in the basic sciences, but particularly to contribute actively to developments within the science of molecular biology.

This tension at the interface of basic science (molecular biology) and clinical medicine (specifically cardiology) raises deep foundational issues. The implications of the 'molecular turn' in medicine are wide-spread - in scientific, ethical and educational respect.

The theme of this symposium fits the goal of the International Institute for Theoretical Cardiology to create a forum for examining controversies in cardiology with special focus upon their philosophical, historical and epidemiological dimensions, and to determine whether insight into resolving such controversies can be obtained by evaluating the axiomatic foundation underlying the disputes.

The purpose of this meeting is to bring together philosophers and historians of science and medicine with scientists working in the field of cardiovascular research and clinical cardiology to discuss the problems involved in fostering molecular biology approaches in cardiology.

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