Sunday, November 04, 2007

Supermouse now: Superhumans soon?

This will undoubtedly be seized on by some government as a way to produce super-soldiers. Rather worrying. But their hyperactivity and hyperaggression could be their undoing too. Would they kill one-another before they got into the field? And their overall energy intake would probably need to be very high -- meaning that they could easily be starved. Second-guessing the tradeoffs nature has made is unlikely to be very smart

A genetically engineered "supermouse" has stunned scientists with its physical abilities. The mouse can run up to six kilometres at a speed of 20 metres per minute for five hours or more without stopping, British newspaper The Independent reports. Scientists say that's the equivalent of a man cycling at speed up an Alpine mountain without a break.

The engineered mouse also lives longer, has more sex and can breed well into old age, and eats more without getting fat, the paper reports. The "supermouse" is the creation of American scientists who are working to create a community of 500 of the rodents.

Scientists say the super abilities came about from a standard genetic modification to a single metabolism gene shared with humans. The genetic alteration to a gene involved in glucose metabolism appears to stimulate the efficient use of body fat for energy production, The Independent reported, citing a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Also, the mice don't suffer from a build up of lactic acid which causes muscle cramps.

Richard Hanson, professor of biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio said the physical performance of the supermouse can only be compared to supremely fit athletes, such as cyclist Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005. "They are metabolically similar to Lance Armstrong biking up the Pyrenees. They utilise mainly fatty acids for energy and produce very little lactic acid," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "They are not eating or drinking and yet they can run for four or five hours. "They are 10 times more active than ordinary mice in their home cage. "They also live longer - up to three years of age - and are reproductively active for almost three years. "In short, they are remarkable animals." But he said the supermouse was "very aggressive" and scientists weren't yet sure why.

Prof Hanson said humans had the same gene that had been manipulated in the mice, but trying similar experiments on humans would be wrong. However, it may be possible for pharmaceutical companies to use the findings to develop new drugs that enhance muscle performance, which may benefit certain patients.

Prof Hanson said the mice were not intentionally bred to have "super" capabilities, but it was clear soon after they were born that they were different. "We could spot them at just a few weeks after birth," the paper quoted him as saying. "They popped around the cage like popcorn. "We found that they were about 10 times as active as ordinary mice."



The association between poor health and lower social class has often been documented. But what causes it? Is it something to do with the lifestyles of the poor? The article below uses education as a social class proxy and offers some pretty strong proof that lifestyle is not the cause of the association between class and health. So what are we left with? Are both poverty and ill health produced by less felicitous gene combinations? Could one cause the other or both have a common cause? I suppose that will be condemned as a "Nazi" suggestion but what if it is true? Very bright people DO live longer and ever since the longditudinal studies of high IQ kids by Terman and Oden (beginning in the 1920s) we have known that high IQ tends to indicate a syndrome of generally good biological functioning. So it is no surprise that the opposite is found too. This article shows that people who are less well-functioning socially also have poorer health. It is in any case hard to dispute that genetics is the key to longevity. How often have we read interviews with centenarians whose lifestyle reports are not at all recognizable as particularly healthy?

Education and dementia: What lies behind the association?

By T. Ngandu et al.

Background: Low education seems to be associated with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease (AD). People with low education have unhealthier lifestyles and more cardiovascular risk factors, but it is unclear how this affects the association between education and dementia.

Methods: Participants of the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia (CAIDE) study were derived from random, population-based samples previously studied in a survey in 1972, 1977, 1982, or 1987. After an average follow-up of 21 years, 1,449 individuals (72%) aged 65 to 79 participated in a re-examination in 1998.

Results: Compared to individuals with formal education of 5 years or less, those with 6 to 8 years of education had OR of 0.57 (95% CI 0.29 to 1.13), and those with 9 years of education or more had OR of 0.16 (95% CI 0.06 to 0.41) for dementia. The corresponding ORs for AD were 0.49 (0.24 to 1.00) and 0.15 (0.05 to 0.40). The associations remained unchanged after adjustments for several demographic, socioeconomic, vascular, and lifestyle characteristics. The results were similar among both men and women. ApoE4 did not modify the association, but the risk of dementia and AD was very low among ApoE4 noncarriers with high education.

Conclusions: The association between low education and dementia is probably not explained by the unhealthy lifestyles of the less educated compared with higher educated persons. Higher educated persons may have a greater cognitive reserve that can postpone the clinical manifestation of dementia. Unhealthy lifestyles may independently contribute to the depletion of this reserve or directly influence the underlying pathologic processes.

NEUROLOGY 2007;69:1442-1450


Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This idea emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.


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