A practical problem with multidisciplinary science

A practical problem with multidisciplinary science

Most people with an interest in science, are aware of the move towards more multidisciplinary scientific research. The supporters of this move rightly claim that different perspectives, can aid problem solving and scientific progress. This is true, but by its very nature different perspectives can also be critical of some traditional ideas and practices. There is bound to be conflicts of interest in any “genuine” multidisciplinary science. This is my own experience.

I am an English systems engineer, with over forty years experience of building and trouble shooting complex mechanical/hydraulic systems. I have an interest in the evolution and function of biology/physiology, at the systems level. From my perspective, the current obsession with the molecules in biological studies, can easily overlook interactions at the systems level. I suggest there is a clear example of this in the dermal system. Very simply, two things cannot be in the same space at the same time!

The hair cycle involves the regular regression then re-enlargement of hair follicles within the dermis. Changes in hair growth are directly linked to changes in hair follicle size. In cases of hair loss, the anagen enlargement of the follicle is cut short, creating smaller follicles and less hair growth. From my systems perspective, there is a crucial omission in the peer reviewed studies about the restricted growth of hair follicles. These fail to consider what is probably the most common in-vivo growth restricting factor known, the pressure based spatial growth control described here.

Scientists claim this control governs all normal tissue growth in-vivo, so it must certainly apply to hair follicles. In my opinion once this is applied to the data about changes in hair growth, it tells a story about mammalian and Human evolution. It also raises a testable question about a factor in Female susceptibility to Autoimmune disease, that has not been previously considered. My article on the subject is here.

My priority here is to try to gain support for the testing of the Gender related immunology question, I obviously cannot do this myself. The problem is that the same evidence that supports this testing, is also critical and predicts the failure of, current lines of hair loss research. Some scientists must be wrong here, so for some time I have been asking scientists a basic question. This is, do they have any evidence that hair follicles are a special case, and so not subject to the normal in-vivo spatial growth controls?

I have contacted many scientists in the field, and general physiology about this. I have also recently contacted scientists who claim to support public involvement and multidisciplinary science, including some famous names. I just get a consistant no comment.

I can understand why scientists in the field refuse to comment, but there seems to be a culture within professional science of not wanting to rock the boat. No one wants to comment on something that is critical of other scientists. This response from a leading organisation of physiologists is typical quote,

“I have discussed with colleagues and we agree that this is not a subject matter that we should directly comment on”.

In my experience with this, there is also the same attitude of not wanting to rock the boat within individual scientific disciplines. In my opinion this is the major cause of slow progress, and the lack of innovation in professional science. Having original ideas that question the prevailing beliefs, can seriously threaten a scientists career. I think a good example of this situation, is the historic research into androgen related hair loss.

There has always been two possible explanations for the effect of androgens upon hair loss, either a direct action or an indirect action. Yet very early on it was decided that this must be a direct effect. In the seventy or so years of this research, there has been no significant progress at all, as we are all aware of. Over the years, there have been an increasing amount of scientific issues with the direct action assumption. But instead of reconsidering the basic premise, scientists just try to patch up the idea, adding more and more complication. I discuss the issues here in my article.

All I am doing is presenting evidence for the alternative indirect action, that has an easily tested and important bottom line. I think any reasonable person would agree, that if scientists are not prepared to dispute the evidence for this as is the current situation, they should support this testing.

Stephen Foote

Stephen Foote is an experienced systems engineer dealing with mechanical and Hydraulic systems but also challenging the academic studies describing the dermal system and explaining the restricted growth of hair follicles.

Featured image credit: Sholto Ramsay via Unsplash

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