Since the beginning of time, our ancestors have been plagued by illnesses and injuries that are not too different from today’s diseases. Evidence from prehistoric times and ancient civilisations have shown man’s attempts at trying to understand the nature and treatment of these conditions. It was not till the early 19th century that the scientific basis of modern medicine was firmly established when microorganisms were discovered and found to be the cause of many of these illnesses. The 20th century saw quantum leaps made in the understanding of the function of the human body and the therapeutic measures aimed at restoration of any such malfunction. The end of the last millennium was marked by historic achievements made in the Life Sciences, in particular the completion of the sequencing of the Human Genome – the code of life. The beginning of the 21st century has already seen many breakthroughs in medical sciences, especially in the fields of stem cell technology and gene therapy. The number of known illnesses directly related to genetic defects or abnormalities have increased exponentially. Many of today’s scourges can be prevented or more effectively treated. Our ability to utilise this new knowledge to combat the ravages of the ageing process and its associated illnesses – degenerative diseases and cancers offer much hope for the future.
I would like to thank the Singapore Orthopaedic Association (SOA) for inviting me to deliver this year’s SOA lecture. When your President, Dr AK Mitra first asked me to deliver the lecture, I felt deeply honoured but was rather hesitant about accepting it – honoured as this annual lecture is normally reserved for an eminent international speaker and hesitant because I felt that I do not qualify as one.
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