(TMU) — New research has shown that a solution may have been found to the problem of biological aging, not only slowing the process down but actually reversing it in a Benjamin Button-like manner.
In a study by scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), volunteers were given a cocktail of three common drugs for one year, including a growth hormone and two diabetes medications, in order to stimulate the regeneration of the thymus gland.
Surprisingly, the researchers discovered that the participants lost an average of 2.5 years on their “epigenetic clock,” measured by analyzing the marks on a person’s genomes. The participants immune systems also revealed sure signs of rejuvenation, according to a study published in the journal Nature.
UCLA geneticist Steve Horvath, who conducted the epigenetic analysis, commented:
“I’d expected to see slowing down of the clock, but not a reversal.
That felt kind of futuristic.”
While the scientists were shocked by the results of the study, they are cautioning that the findings remain preliminary due to the small scale of the trial—which only included nine people—and the lack of a control arm.
Cell biologist Wolfgang Wagner from the University of Aachen in Germany said:
“It may be that there is an effect.
But the results are not rock solid because the study is very small and not well controlled.”
Nevertheless, if the study’s outcome is confirmed, its impact on humankind’s relationship with infectious disease and aging itself could be profound.
The epigenetic clock is measured through a record of chemical modifications to an organism’s DNA, with the pattern of such changes reflecting a person’s biological age, which can either exceed or lag behind a person’s chronological age.
The main purpose of the trial was to test if growth hormones could regenerate the tissue of the thymus gland, which lies in the chest between the breastbone and the lungs and plays a crucial role in human immune functions. The gland shrinks following puberty before it increasingly becomes clogged with fat.
Past studies on animals and humans have shown that the growth hormone does stimulate the regrowth of the thymus, but the hormone can also promote diabetes, hence the use of the two anti-diabetic drugs dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and metformin in the most recent study.
The scientists largely checked the epigenetic clocks of participants as an afterthought before discovering that four different measures of participants revealed a significant reversal of their epigenetic clocks through the process.
According to Horvath, six participants have provided blood samples for the six months following the trial, with the effect remaining stable.
“This told me that the biological effect of the treatment was robust.
Because we could follow the changes within each individual, and because the effect was so very strong in each of them, I am optimistic.”
Future tests will include a more diverse participant base in terms of age, ethnicity and gender, while the three drugs will each be tested independently in order to more accurately gauge their specific effects on the subjects.
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.