Essential Concepts in Molecular Pathology 2010
Pathology is the scientific study of the nature of disease and its causes, processes, development, and consequences. The field of pathology emerged from the application of the scientific method to the study of human disease. Thus, pathology as a discipline represents the complimentary intersection of medicine and basic science. Early pathologists were typically practicing physicians who described the various diseases that they treated and made observations related to factors that contributed to the development of these diseases. The description of disease evolved over time from gross observation to microscopic inspection of diseased tissues based upon the light microscope, and more recently to the ultrastructural analysis of disease with the advent of the electron microscope. As hospital-based and community-based registries of disease emerged, the ability of investigators to identify factors that cause disease and assign risk to specific types of exposures expanded to increase our knowledge of the epidemiology of disease. While descriptive pathology can be dated to the earliest written histories of medicine and the modern practice of diagnostic pathology dates back perhaps 200 years, the elucidation of mechanisms of disease and linkage of disease pathogenesis to specific causative factors emerged more recently from studies in experimental pathology.
The field of experimental pathology embodies the conceptual foundation of early pathology – the application of the scientific method to the study of disease – and applies modern investigational tools of cell andmolecular biology to advanced animal model systems and studies of human subjects. Whereas the molecular era of biological science began over 50 years ago, recent advances in our knowledge of molecular mechanisms of disease have propelled the field of molecular pathology. These advances were facilitated by significant improvements and new developments associated with the techniques and methodologies available to pose questions related to the molecular biology of normal and diseased states affecting cells, tissues, and organisms.
Today, molecular pathology encompasses the investigation of the molecular mechanisms of disease and interfaces with translational medicine where new basic science discoveries form the basis for the development of new strategies for disease prevention, new therapeutic approaches and targeted therapies for the treatment of disease, and new diagnostic tools for disease diagnosis and prognostication.
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