If you went home for the holidays and visited a local gym to break a sweat, you probably know by now that not all gyms are created equal. Some are shitty by nature, filled with old, rusty weights and uneven flooring. But even at a perfectly new and well-equipped gym, things can sometimes just feel different, and…
If you had to list the very basic elemental ingredients for life on Earth, you'd have to include carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen (collectively called CHON) as your main ones, plus a smattering of others like phosphorous, sodium, and iron. If you took a step up in complexity and included molecules, then you'd also want things like amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), nucleobases (the building blocks of nucleic acids like RNA and DNA), and sugars.
A lot of these chemicals are pretty simple, and form easily in the right conditions. Conditions on early Earth may have been conducive to construct them, but it may surprise you to find out things were pretty good in space, too. The very first solid bits of material to form in the disk of gas and dust swirling around the proto-Sun 4.6 billion years ago were rich in carbon and those other ingredients, even the complex ones.
And many of them have actually been found in meteorites! Amino acids, nucleobases, and other relatively complex molecules have been found in rocks that fell from space, ones that had been orbiting the Sun for tall those eons since they formed. Weirdly, though, one of the major ingredients has historically not been found: sugars, specifically the kind life is based on.
However, scientists have just announced they have, for the first time, detected biological sugars in meteorites! This includes ribose, arabinose, xylose, and lyxose. Ribose is particularly important, because it's a key part of RNA — ribonucleic acid — which is critical in the formation of life on Earth. It's what's called a macromolecule (a very large and usually complex molecule) that can store a vast amount of information, and is used as a basis of a lot of biological processes. Life on Earth was probably based on RNA first, and then later was replaced by DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). We still use RNA in our cells for a lot of functions.
The researchers looked at three different meteorites: NWA 801, NWA 7020, and the famous Murchison meteorite. All three are what are called carbonaceous chondrites, which are a group of "primitive" meteorites, meaning they formed very early in the history of the solar system and remain relatively unchanged since that time. In that sense they're like time capsules from over 4.5 billion years ago!
Sugars have been found in meteorites like these before, but there has always been a problem with knowing if the sugars are native to the meteorites, or leeched into the meteorites as they sat on Earth, contaminating them. The researchers in this new work used a new technique that extracts sugars more reliably. Also, they were able to show that the sugars in the meteorites were much less likely to come from Earth, by looking at the isotopes of carbon in them.
Carbon is defined as an atom with 6 protons in its nucleus. If it has six neutrons there as well we call it 12C. That's by far the most common form of carbon on Earth, and the kind preferentially used in biological processes here. But there's a different kind with 7 neutrons, called 13C, and that's common in space. The sugars in the meteorites were enriched in 13C over the amount you'd expect to find from sugars on Earth, which supports the idea that they are indeed from space.
In those very early times in the solar system, grains of material condensed out of the solar nebula first, then collided with each other and grew. Eventually larger asteroids formed, and this complicated things since these had of water in them that could change the chemistry going on. The researchers here looked at the mineral structures of the meteorites and found evidence that some of the sugars could have formed early on, when the grains were very small, and some may have formed later, when the grains were in larger asteroids, where water was present. Even before the planets themselves formed, these sugars were coming together.
One thing they didn't find in the meteorites was deoxyribose (similar to ribose, but with an OH molecule replaced by a hydrogen atom in the structure). It's long been thought that meteorites like these supplied Earth with many of the basic chemicals needed for life. While the sample here is small the lack of deoxyribose is interesting. Extrapolating from this, it means that ribose could have been supplied much more than deoxyribose. There's an idea called "RNA world", which posits that early life on Earth was based on RNA, before DNA came about. The presence of ribose in the meteorites and lack of deoxyribose supports this idea, though of course doesn't confirm it. A lot of steps are still missing, but this is interesting.
The point is that scientists are still trying to figure this out, and while a picture is emerging, a lot of the pieces are still missing. Sugars are a big part of this, so this new research is a lovely step forward in filling in those gaps.
How did life start on Earth? We don't know, but perhaps someday soon we will.
A small 2016 study came up with a simple protocol to accelerate ligament, tendon and bone repair. Many other studies have explored the use of vitamin-C for enhancing collagen production, but the protocol used in this one is very specific involving nutrient timing, exercise and careful preparation. In particular the vitamin-C (ascorbic acid) must not be heated in order to be effective. Also the exercise is timed to match peak branch chain amino acid levels which occured one hour after consumption.
The treatment protocol used in the 2016 study was a combination of gelatin, vitamin C and exercise. Multiple blood and collagen samples were taken from participants and a sweet spot of 15 grams of gelatin showed significantly more collagen production than the placebo or pre-treatments values.
consume 15 g gelatin mix + vitamin-C (60 mg)
wait 1 hour
jump rope 6 min
repeat 3x a day, six hours apart
Jumping rope is ideal for ankle, knee and wrist issues. The idea is to exercise the compromised area that you would like to build collagen in so that the nutrients are directed to that location. A different workout might be needed to exercise other parts of the body and direct nutrients appropriately.
Dr. Keith Baar has been featured on many different podcasts for his involvement in the 2016 Vitamin C-enriched gelatin study. He explains in this episode how his research can be applied to sports injuries by reducing recovery time. Over 50% of sport related injuries are due to sprains, strains and breaks of musculoskeletal tissue.
Episode 143: Muscle physiology researcher Dr. Keith Baar from the University of California at Davis is on the show to discuss his teams work looking at nutrional and training strategies that can increase tendon stiffness, hence playing a role in injury prevention and the recovery process from tendon/ligament ruptures and bone/cartilage damage.
The high rate of injury in many sports is due to the fact that strength, power and speed are dependent on stiff connective tissues, which results in higher rates of injury to the attached musculature.
Tendon stiffness is dependent on collagen content and the amount of crosslinks within the collagen
What actually increases and decreases the amount of these collagen crosslinks? – Training modalities and nutritional protocols
Eating gelatin and vitamin C may promote greater collagen production, especially following a tendon/ligament rupture
Athletes early in the process of recovery from soft tissue injury should be encouraged to perform three separate short training bouts (5-10 min) spaced 6 h apart throughout the day
Incorporating gelatin prior to at least two of these recovery sessions may augment collagen synthesis in tendon, ligament, cartilage and bone, and accelerate return to play
Who here knows when to use “who” and when to use “whom”? For whom am I writing this post? For those of us who like a good whom now and then and know it isn’t just a fancier version of who, that’s whom.
The idea of throwing a party for a gaggle of your kid’s friends sounds great in theory, but dealing with an additional five (six? Eight? A dozen?) children requires a special set of skills—the very kind a teacher has, in spades.