Aesop’s infant fecal microbiotas
There once was a city baby who visited his Amish country cousin. (Actually, this study involved two groups of five babies each; but for our purposes, one child will do.)
Amish baby served a simple meal, and the two relations talked of an odd experience they had shared.
City baby said that one day, a group of scientists from The Ohio State University visited his home in Wooster, where he had no known contact with livestock. The scientists asked if they could have some of city baby’s poop so they could examine his microbiome. Amish baby said that scientists also had visited her rural home, where the family raised goats and pigs, and asked for some of her poop.
Amish baby said that there was “an abundance of beneficial bacteria” in her gut, as the researchers had put it, that wasn’t found in city baby’s gut. The reason, the scientists told Amish baby, was her “exposure to the livestock and the fact that the Amish tend to live a relatively less-sanitized lifestyle than most other Americans.”
City baby frowned and pulled out his smartphone. After some quick Googling, he found a written statement from the study’s co-lead author, Zhongtang Yu of Ohio State’s Food Innovation Center: “Good hygiene is important, but from the perspective of our immune systems, a sanitized environment robs our immune systems of the opportunity to be educated by microbes. Too clean is not necessarily a good thing.”
City baby became a little sad, so Amish baby tried to comfort him. But then his Uber showed up, and he had to go home.
The Red (wine) Planet
The first astronauts who make the long voyage to Mars will face many health challenges. The hostility of space itself. Years of isolation cooped up inside a tiny metal can. Potentially lethal doses of radiation.
Comparatively speaking, the degrading effects of the Red Planet’s lighter gravity on the human body seem almost trivial. But the weakening of both bone and muscle is a serious problem; luckily, it’s a problem that seems to have a solution. Just bring some wine along.
Specifically, red wine.
According to aundertaken by researchers in Boston, resveratrol – a chemical found in red wine with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antidiabetic effects – may stave off the musculoskeletal degradation effects of lighter gravity.
Rats placed in an environment simulating Mars’s lighter gravity that received resveratrol had significantly greater limb grip force, muscle weight, myofiber size, and muscle composition protection than did rats placed in Mars-like gravity that did not receive the chemical.
While some muscle atrophy did occur, the results were definitely impressive, and the researchers noted that a greater dose may further improve results.
We eagerly await the first fateful words when the first Mars expedition touches down: “Tranquility Base here, the commander’s gotten into the wine cellar again. Give us a few minutes to sober him up.”