5 Medical Breakthroughs That Make Life Shockingly Easy
Everyone has that one thing they'd like to change about themselves -- quitting the booze, getting in shape, kicking that public masturbation habit -- but they continually put it off, because making major lifestyle changes is hard. Damn it, science, it's the 21st century! Where's the pill that makes all of our human flaws disappear?
Not far away, apparently. At this very moment, they are testing ...
A Pill That Replaces Exercise
When it comes to the competition between food and exercise, how could exercise ever stand a chance when food is just so goddamn delicious? That's apparently a sentiment many Americans share, because according to the CDC, over one-third of us are fatasses. See, what we need is a pill that just magically makes fat go away, and we're not talking about the bullshit diet pills they have on supplement shelves now (hint: their "appetite suppressant" is just caffeine). Well, it looks like the future is going to be an awesome place for people who hate to sweat.
Say goodbye to your extra chins and hello to ... everything else you're already doing.
Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have discovered a hormone that mimics exercising by increasing the body's ability to burn fat, theoretically allowing you to get in shape even as you watch Firefly marathons while choking down Hungry-Man frozen dinners. (PROTIP: You're supposed to cook them first.) The newly identified hormone, called irisin, causes the body to transform white "bad" fat into brown "good" fat, which generates heat. The result is the same as exercise -- burning calories, improving the processing of insulin ... everything that could bring us every fat guy's greasy wet dream: an exercise pill.
So how did the scientists discover the true potential of irisin? How else? After studying and isolating the hormone, they shot up some roly-poly mice with it. Within 10 days of treatment, the mice had better blood sugar and insulin levels and had lost some weight, with the assumption being that longer exposure would "reduce the damage done by a high-fat diet, protecting mice against diet-induced obesity and diabetes."
For Squeaky, the weight may have gone, but the crippling self-esteem issues remained.
Researchers think that irisin could potentially be used to address a wide range of health problems -- obesity, mental health disorders, neuromuscular diseases like muscular dystrophy -- but come on, we all know what it'll really be used for: getting all the benefits of exercise without doing one iota of the work. After all, isn't that exactly what all of human civilization has been progressing toward for the last thousand years or so?
A Real Hangover (and Possible Alcoholism) Cure
After thousands of years of headaches, heavy eyelids, and how the hell did the world get so loud?, we might finally have a solution to one of the world's most pressing health issues. That's right -- thanks to the tireless work of scientists who couldn't give less of a shit about that "curing cancer" nonsense, we might soon have a preventive cure for the common hangover. And it'll come in handy-dandy pill form.
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles have developed a drug called dihydromyricetin, dubbed DHM, which they claim will drastically reduce hangover symptoms. The drug was developed using chemicals derived from the fruit of the oriental raisin tree, which has been used by people in China to prevent hangovers for over 500 years.
Thanks, China. See if we give you any of our sweet democracy or morbid obesity.
Once again, the scientists first tested the drugs on rats, which were injected with heavy doses of alcohol and later made to run a maze. Rats that were not given DHM behaved pretty much how you'd expect hung-over rats to behave, stumbling into walls or cowering in a corner, presumably begging the scientists to inject them with some coffee and turn down the damn lights. The rats that were given DHM, however, ran the maze as if they hadn't been given any alcohol, behaving as inquisitively as any sober rat.
According to the researchers, the drug's benefits don't end with curing hangovers: DHM was also shown to be effective at preventing rats from getting drunk in the first place. In another phase of the experiment, the scientists laid some rats on their backs and injected them with a shit-ton of alcohol -- the human equivalent of drinking 15 to 20 beers in two hours, or what many of our readers refer to as "a pretty good start." The researchers then grabbed some popcorn and snickered as the rats tried to right themselves.
"Ha! She's going home with him?"
The liquored-up rodents provided the researchers with 70 minutes of weebly-wobbly hilarity, but rats that were given DHM at the same time as the booze were able to get back on their feet in just five. And long term, DHM prevented the rats from developing cravings for alcohol, effectively keeping them from becoming filthy little disease-ridden alcoholics.
"One puke tray per mouse. Trust us, they'll need every ounce of space."
That's all fine and good for the drunken rodent population of the world, but what about us humans? Well, you don't have to wait long. Human trials of DHM are going on in the USA, but if you really need that hangover cure, you can just book that Korean vacation you've been putting off: Drugs made from the oriental raisin tree have already been approved by the Korean Food & Drug Administration and have been sold in the country since 2008.
Finally, a Male Birth Control Pill
Ever wonder why there's never been a male version of the birth control pill? Well, for starters, it's a problem of magnitude: To stop a woman from getting pregnant, all you have to do is block a single egg each month, whereas a man produces about 1,000 sperm every single time his heart beats. Then there's also the challenge of getting the drug across the blood-testis barrier, a nifty little roadblock that evolution built to protect a man's tadpoles from any nastiness floating around in his bloodstream. So it's long been considered damn nigh impossible, but researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute told impossible to go fuck itself when they set out to discover a compound that just might result in the first effective and hormone-free birth control pill for men.
Except that's not quite how it happened. As with many scientific discoveries, this compound's sperm-busting capability was found completely by accident. Dubbed JQ1, the compound was originally intended to be used in anti-cancer drugs, but when they started pumping copious amounts of it into mice, the researchers noticed something peculiar: a conspicuous lack of mouse babies. It turned out that JQ1 drastically lowered the amount of sperm the male mice produced, and those they did produce were gimpy -- if you picture a man's sperm as millions of tiny Michael Phelpses swimming for an Olympic gold medal (a much squishier, egg-shaped gold medal), JQ1 is the molecular compound running around kneecapping all of them with a microscopic baseball bat.
But we haven't even gotten to possibly the most important factor for a drug to be considered viable as a birth control method: reversibility. And JQ1 has that in spades -- when taken off of the drug, the mice were once again free to sire countless little mouse children to repopulate their strange, glass-encased worlds.
Well, some of them.
Of course, there's still a long way to go before the compound makes the jump from mice to men, and it remains to be seen whether guys will even go for a complete reversal of the birth control norm that has existed for half a century. If dudes can't be bothered to roll on a condom, who's to say they will remember to take a pill? Or tell the truth about not taking it?
A Pill That Stops You from Buying Stupid Shit on Impulse
Do you stare at your credit card bill at the end of the month and wonder when you bought all of that useless shit? Are brown boxes decorated with the curved Amazon.com arrow showing up at your door on a daily basis? There's a name for that condition: oniomania, otherwise known as compulsive shopping.
"I definitely won't regret this later."
And as lame as it sounds, it can be just as serious as any other behavioral disorder. It can lead to ruined credit histories, failed marriages, and theft. But what is a sufferer supposed to do about it, you ask? This isn't like some chemical addiction where it sort of makes sense that a drug could curb the impulse. Are you honestly going to take a pill that magically suppresses the urge to shop?
Well, yeah. Have you even been paying attention to this article at all?
"This will give you liquid shits if you so much as even look at a Macy's."
Scientists at the University of Minnesota gave a drug called memantine to people ages 19 to 59 who suffer from shopaholism. Before the trial began, these people spent up to 61 percent of their annual salary on impulse buys -- these were middle-class folks who devoted as much as 38 hours a week looking for bargains in stores. And while a TLC reality show star might call that "Wednesday," your average American's bank account calls it "Oh dear God, let the torture end." After taking the pill for eight weeks, sufferers engaged in less impulse buying and had "fewer impulsive urges, thoughts, and behavior." Overall, the pill reduced the symptoms of the disorder by freaking half.
The whole thing worked so well, it even made the TV news:
So, how does that possibly work? The drug affects glutamate, a chemical in the brain that is believed to contribute to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Many health professionals think that compulsive shopping is a close cousin of OCD, so treating someone's urge to lock and unlock their door 30 times whenever they leave the house is very similar to treating their overwhelming urge to buy out the underwear bin at Walmart.
Well, shit, if they have a pill that can cure our stupid urges, what else can they cure? How about ...
A Drug That Cures Your Racism
From crazy dictators blaming recessions on the different-colored scapegoat of the day to your asshole uncle constantly screaming about the world being overrun with jive turkeys, racism is an unfortunate and unavoidable part of life. And what's worse, no matter how many Will Smith movies we watch, there might be a certain part of every one of us that unconsciously fears some different color or creed -- unless you take a pill for it. One that's already available.
"And you're sure this will stop my husband from shooting the TV every time The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air comes on?"
Well, OK, so we might not yet be at the point where you can walk up to a doctor and ask him to hook you up with some pills for your grandpa's inexplicable hatred of Scandinavians. But hey, it's not like science isn't trying -- and succeeding. Recently, some researchers at Oxford University found that they could combat racism using an anxiety drug that's already out: propranolol.
In an experiment, the researchers gave either propranolol or a placebo to a bunch of white people, the most stereotypically racist bunch the researchers could think of (which, in a sense, would make the scientists themselves doubly racist). The participants filled out surveys rating their attitudes toward black people using a scale from 0 to 100, 0 meaning that they wanted to personally push a button that would nuke Atlanta, 100 meaning that they'd like to make sweet love to a Nubian deity and populate the world with their ethnically ambiguous love children. They then repeated the surveys with their feelings toward homosexuals, Muslims, Christians, and drug addicts, which are apparently races now.
"I'll have you know that we are a proud, noble, balls-tripping people!"
But wait! you might say. People aren't always honest in these types of surveys -- even to themselves. Some people might sincerely believe that they're colorblind and progressive, but might harbor prejudices buried so deep in their subconscious, they'd need a Ouija board to find them. That's why the scientists then gave them a computerized test that involved sorting faces of different ethnic origins along with words with positive and negative connotations. This test assessed the participants' "implicit racism," the racism that you might harbor but be consciously unaware of.
And guess what? The people who were given the propranolol scored significantly lower on tests of implicit racism. That's right -- the drug actually led to people becoming less racist at a subconscious level. Why did the drug work so well? The Brits believe the reason is that propranolol affects the part of the brain involved in fear and emotional responses. Essentially, the drug calms the symptoms of anxiety, and since racism is thought to be fundamentally founded on fear, calming down one's automatic fear response should also calm down the desire to carpet bomb every country that ends in "stan."
Sadly, for Dale, some aspects of his skinhead life would always remain.
For now, battling racism is strictly an off-label use for propranolol due to the ethical implications of improving people's morals via lozenge. But it's nice to know it's there should you ever need to spike the punch at your local Klan rally.
For more things science is giving us, check out 5 Mind-Blowing Ways That Science Has Done the Impossible and 5 of Life's Most Mundane Problems (Solved With Math).
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Insane New Year's Celebrations from Around the World.