In 25 or 50 or 75 years, maybe today's scourges—cancer, heart disease, diabetes—will have receded into medical lore as 21st-century versions of childbirth fever (it once killed a quarter of the women who delivered at some hospitals) or tuberculosis (the cause of 1 in 4 deaths in Europe in the first half of the 20th century).
If so, thanks will be owed to medical pioneers like the 14 you can read about here—smart, imaginative, and impatient with conventional boundaries. Such cutting-edge scientists are also increasingly well funded, thanks to the new emphasis by the White House and Congress on research. The National Institutes of Health is pumping $10 billion in stimulus funds into the nation's labs, along with some $24 billion already budgeted. Much of the money will go to programs that face steep odds but that, like all long shots, will pay off big if they succeed.
These 14 pioneers have long been deep into such projects, from searching for a way to erase traumatic memories to building new body parts from scratch—long enough that some, like the use of an electromagnet to treat severe depression, deserve a term that researchers hate to use: breakthrough.
- Anthony Atala: Grinding Out New Organs One at a Time
- Jean Bennett and Albert Maguire: Gene Therapy to Reverse Near-Blindness
- Elizabeth Blackburn: Ordering Cancer Cells to "Curl Up and Die"
- Mark George: Treating Depression With an Electromagnet
- Denise Faustman: To Stop Diabetes, She's Attacking the Immune System
- David Holtzman: Attacking Alzheimer's With a New Test for Amyloid Beta
- C. Ronald Kahn: Is Brown Fat a Good Fat That Can Erase Bad Fat?
- Boris Kovatchev: Artificial Pancreas Could Help Diabetics
- Wayne Marasco: A Shot at a Universal Flu Vaccine
- Elaine Mardis and Richard Wilson: Taking Cancer's Genetic Measure
- Chad Mirkin: Standing Tall in a Nanoparticle Universe
- Todd Sacktor: Making Memories—and Selectively Forgetting Them