The Outer Limits Of Research

By John Salak


I don’t know. Sometimes maybe it’s better just to roll the dice and let nature take its course.

The Institute of Healthy Ageing in London, for example, has just suggested the maybe we should invite hookworms back into our bodies because they might be able to fight inflammation that comes with age.

An undergraduate assistant at the Institute just recently raised the possibility that in carefully controlled, restorative treatments “our old friend helminth parasites,” known as hookworms, may prevent ageing and fight heart disease and dementia. Bruce Zhang, the undergraduate assistant in question, explained that the health trends in developed countries that effectively rid people of hook worms have been linked to an increased prevalence of allergic and autoimmune inflammatory disorders. “A further possibility is that this loss of ‘old friend’ microbes and helminths increases the sterile, ageing-associated inflammation known as inflammageing,” he explained.

No one is going to argue against aging gracefully and perhaps Zhang is right about “our old friend.” But his report includes a lot of “possibilities,” “coulds” and “maybes.”  And then there is that approach that requires “carefully controlled, restorative treatments”  that assumingly centers on cozying up to hookworms. None of this sounds, well, reassuring, let alone appetizing.

The Institute claims that hookworms “used to live relatively harmlessly in our bodies,” but I’m not sure my grandmother would agree. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention certainly doesn’t, as it reports these intestinal parasites and cause disease.

I’m pretty sure neither Zhang nor the institute are trying to hurt anyone. They mean well and its highly unlikely they’re out hawking cups of hookworms to unsuspecting Londoners outside the Temple tube station. But their hookworm pitch may be a tough one for people to embrace even if additional research backs it up. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but somethings are just difficult to accept let alone comprehend why we’re thinking about a particular issue. Not surprisingly, they’re not the only researchers who’ve face public relations challenges and a healthy dose of skepticism.

Consider these health research headlines as proof.

Wonder Fungi In Goat’s Gut

Taste great on a Ritz cracker, no doubt

Putting Bugs On The Menu, Safely

Perfectly paired with a late harvest Riesling

Monkeys Learn Earmuffs Not Worth Much On Beach

Can’t pull anything over on chimps

Feces and algorithms: Artificial Intelligence to map our intestinal bacteria

Proof IT professionals are full of it

Impact of wet underwear on thermoregulatory responses and thermal comfort in the cold

Nothing but cold comfort from this research

The Vampire Study: Significant elevation of faecal calprotectin in healthy volunteers after 300 ml blood ingestion mimicking upper gastrointestinal bleeding

Good to know if you’re a thirsty bloodsucker

Dangerous Liaison: Sexually Transmitted Allergic Reaction to Brazil Nuts

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