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Three R’s Of Health And Wellness

I’d like to talk about how rodents, relationships, and riding relate to overall health and wellness.

This idea comes from a nicely-written New York Times piece entitled, “Does Loneliness Reduce the Benefits of Exercise?” Here, Gretchen Reynolds reviews a few intriguing studies about how relationships may affect exercise, stress hormone levels, and intelligence. The combo caught my eye.

Anyone who pays attention to wellness knows that exercise produces more flexible arteries, more durable hearts, and leaner body shapes. These benefits are obvious, and honestly, sometimes a bit tiresome to write about.

To me, a far more interesting — and lesser known — benefit of regular exercise is that it might make us smarter. Here’s where the rodents come into the story.

As was summarized in the New York Times piece, when researchers allowed rats and mice access to running wheels they observed (a) that they all ran, and (b) those rats that did run scored better on rodent IQ tests, and actually grew more brain cells. This is a striking finding because nerve cells — unlike blood, GI and skin cells, which turnover rapidly — grow very slowly, if at all.

But that’s not the entire story. The Princeton researchers wanted to know whether the rat’s social relationships could have measurable biologic effects.

It turns out that rodents — like humans — are quite social. So social, in fact, that in these trials the brain-growing effect of exercise was blunted when rodents lived alone. Compared to rats and mice that lived in groups, those that were kept in isolation failed to grow new nerve cells in response to exercise. And importantly, isolated rats produced higher levels of stress hormones than those who lived in groups, even though both groups ran the same distance. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Which Five Drugs Would You Take On A Remote Desert Island?

This post follows a lengthy conversation I had with my wife, a physician-scientist, about this very topic.

Many of you who attended the ScienceOnline2010 conference here last January probably met Carmen Drahl, the Princeton-trained chemist who now writes for Chemical & Engineering News and their appropriately-named drug discovery blog, The Haystack, as well as their Newscripts feature.

For the latter, Dr. Drahl pointed us toward a recent “Crosstalks” paper in Chemistry & Biology by Thomas U. Mayer and Andreas Marx of the University of Konstanz (and her interview with the authors) who mused as follows from their abstract:

Which five molecules would you take to a remote island? If you imagine yourself as a castaway on an island you might pick water, glucose, penicillin, and ethanol in combination with aspirin. However, as a scientist, you may ask yourself which molecules impressed you most by their chemical or biological property, their impact on science, or the ingenuity and/or serendipity behind their discovery. Here, we present our personal short list comprising FK506, colchicine, imatinib, Quimi-Hib, and cidofovir. Obviously, our selection is highly subjective and, therefore, we apologize up front to our colleagues for not mentioning their favorite compounds.

The authors pose two different questions: a) Which molecules, drug or not, would you take as the sole occupant of a desert island? and b) Which drugs most impress you with their chemistry, biology, or impact on science? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

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Latest Book Reviews

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

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