Livin' on the MDedge

Sweaty treatment for social anxiety could pass the sniff test


Getting sweet on sweat

Are you the sort of person who struggles in social situations? Have the past 3 years been a secret respite from the terror and exhaustion of meeting new people? We understand your plight. People kind of suck. And you don’t have to look far to be reminded of it.

Unfortunately, on occasion we all have to interact with other human beings. If you suffer from social anxiety, this is not a fun thing to do. But new research indicates that there may be a way to alleviate the stress for those with social anxiety: armpits.

People raising their arms at a concert alex bracken/Unsplash

Specifically, sweat from the armpits of other people. Yes, this means a group of scientists gathered up some volunteers and collected their armpit sweat while the volunteers watched a variety of movies (horror, comedy, romance, etc.). Our condolences to the poor unpaid interns tasked with gathering the sweat.

Once they had their precious new medicine, the researchers took a group of women and administered a round of mindfulness therapy. Some of the participants then received the various sweats, while the rest were forced to smell only clean air. (The horror!) Lo and behold, the sweat groups had their anxiety scores reduced by about 40% after their therapy, compared with just 17% in the control group.

The researchers also found that the source of the sweat didn’t matter. Their study subjects responded the same to sweat excreted during a scary movie as they did to sweat from a comedy, a result that surprised the researchers. They suggested chemosignals in the sweat may affect the treatment response and advised further research. Which means more sweat collection! They plan on testing emotionally neutral movies next time, and if we can make a humble suggestion, they also should try the sweatiest movies.

Before the Food and Drug Administration can approve armpit sweat as a treatment for social anxiety, we have some advice for those shut-in introverts out there. Next time you have to interact with rabid extroverts, instead of shaking their hands, walk up to them and take a deep whiff of their armpits. Establish dominance. Someone will feel awkward, and science has proved it won’t be you.

The puff that vaccinates

Ever been shot with a Nerf gun or hit with a foam pool tube? More annoying than painful, right? If we asked if you’d rather get pelted with one of those than receive a traditional vaccine injection, you would choose the former. Maybe someday you actually will.

MOF-Jet can shoot gene therapies into cells without the pain of a needle. Dr. Jeremiah Gassensmith

During the boredom of the early pandemic lockdown, Jeremiah Gassensmith, PhD, of the department of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Texas, Dallas, ordered a compressed gas–powered jet injection system to fool around with at home. Hey, who didn’t? Anyway, when it was time to go back to the lab he handed it over to one of his grad students, Yalini Wijesundara, and asked her to see what could be done with it.

In her tinkering she found that the jet injector could deliver metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that can hold a bunch of different materials, like proteins and nucleic acids, through the skin.

Thus the “MOF-Jet” was born!

Jet injectors are nothing new, but they hurt. The MOF-Jet, however, is practically painless and cheaper than the gene guns that veterinarians use to inject biological cargo attached to the surface of a metal microparticle.

Changing the carrier gas also changes the time needed to break down the MOF and thus alters delivery of the drug inside. “If you shoot it with carbon dioxide, it will release its cargo faster within cells; if you use regular air, it will take 4 or 5 days,” Ms. Wijesundara explained in a written statement. That means the same drug could be released over different timescales without changing its formulation.

While testing on onion cells and mice, Ms. Wijesundara noted that it was as easy as “pointing and shooting” to distribute the puff of gas into the cells. A saving grace to those with needle anxiety. Not that we would know anything about needle anxiety.

More testing needs to be done before bringing this technology to human use, obviously, but we’re looking forward to saying goodbye to that dreaded prick and hello to a puff.


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