Often in the life sciences, the act of observation must occur as an exercise of the dynamic whole. Not through the focused eyes of a molecular lens, or the turbulence of cells in petri plates and test tubes. Not even within the safe boundaries of a cadavre. Although these are powerful conveniences to be sure, the quest for truth often relies on effects seen in the context of the moving, the breathing, and the conscious – preferably all three at the same time. We call this the ultimately level of in vivo, and FDA approval knows this well.
And an odd example of an experiment which attempts to covet this principle is the creation of “parabiotic pairs.” This is where two animals are surgically “combined” in a sense, usually in the context of dialysis where blood can flow freely between two creatures. Although this is more a novelty procedure these days, it’s worth noting that it was this type of experiment that led to the elucidation of biochemistry associated with weight regulation, obesity, etc.
Recently, in an issue of Maisonneuve, I noted the following painting by artist Frida Kahlo, which was used as an inspiration and starting point for the magazine’s cover. This image, to all intents and purposes, is a graphic example of a parabiotic pair.
Could it be that the importance of observing the wider living context is appreciated outside of science? Yes, of course it is – and it would appear that Ms. Kahlo would also agree.