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Coming to a pill near you: The exercise molecule


Exercise in a pill? Sign us up

You just got home from a long shift and you know you should go to the gym, but the bed is calling and you just answered. We know sometimes we have to make sacrifices in the name of fitness, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Unless our prayers have been answered. There could be a pill that has the benefits of working out without having to work out.

In a study published in Nature, investigators reported that they have identified a molecule made during exercise and used it on mice, which took in less food after being given the pill, which may open doors to understanding how exercise affects hunger.

group of people of stretching ©Rido/

In the first part of the study, the researchers found the molecule, known as Lac-Phe – which is synthesized from lactate and phenylalanine – in the blood plasma of mice after they had run on a treadmill.

The investigators then gave a Lac-Phe supplement to mice on high-fat diets and found that their food intake was about 50% of what other mice were eating. The supplement also improved their glucose tolerance.

Because the research also found Lac-Phe in humans who exercised, they hope that this pill will be in our future. “Our next steps include finding more details about how Lac-Phe mediates its effects in the body, including the brain,” Yong Xu, MD, of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, said in a written statement. “Our goal is to learn to modulate this exercise pathway for therapeutic interventions.”

As always, we are rooting for you, science!

Gonorrhea and grandparents: A match made in prehistoric heaven

*Editorial note: LOTME takes no responsibility for any unfortunate imagery the reader may have experienced from the above headline.

Old people are the greatest. Back pains, cognitive decline, aches in all the diodes down your left side, there’s nothing quite like your golden years. Notably, however, humans are one of the few animals who experience true old age, as most creatures are adapted to maximize reproductive potential. As such, living past menopause is rare in the animal kingdom.

numerous Neisseria gonorrhoeae diplococcal bacteria CDC/John Martin Jr.

This is where the “grandmother hypothesis” comes in: Back in Ye Olde Stone Age, women who lived into old age could provide child care for younger women, because human babies require a lot more time and attention than other animal offspring. But how did humans end up living so long? Enter a group of Californian researchers, who believe they have an answer. It was gonorrhea.

When compared with the chimpanzee genome (as well as with Neanderthals and Denisovans, our closest ancestors), humans have a unique mutated version of the CD33 gene that lacks a sugar-binding site; the standard version uses the sugar-binding site to protect against autoimmune response in the body, but that same site actually suppresses the brain’s ability to clear away damaged brain cells and amyloid, which eventually leads to diseases like dementia. The mutated version allows microglia (brain immune cells) to attack and clear out this unwanted material. People with higher levels of this mutated CD33 variant actually have higher protection against Alzheimer’s.

Interestingly, gonorrhea bacteria are coated in the same sugar that standard CD33 receptors bind to, thus allowing them to bypass the body’s immune system. According to the researchers, the mutated CD33 version likely emerged as a protection against gonorrhea, depriving the bacteria of their “molecular mimicry” abilities. In one of life’s happy accidents, it turned out this mutation also protects against age-related diseases, thus allowing humans with the mutation to live longer. Obviously, this was a good thing, and we ran with it until the modern day. Now we have senior citizens climbing Everest, and all our politicians keep on politicking into their 70s and 80s ... well, everything has its drawbacks.


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