Mice Genome Reprogrammed to Rejuvenate Organs and Extend Life

(p. A22) At the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., scientists are trying to get time to run backward.
Biological time, that is. In the first attempt to reverse aging by reprogramming the genome, they have rejuvenated the organs of mice and lengthened their life spans by 30 percent. The technique, which requires genetic engineering, cannot be applied directly to people, but the achievement points toward better understanding of human aging and the possibility of rejuvenating human tissues by other means.
The Salk team’s discovery, reported in the Thursday issue of the journal Cell, is “novel and exciting,” said Jan Vijg, an expert on aging at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
Leonard Guarente, who studies the biology of aging at M.I.T., said, “This is huge,” citing the novelty of the finding and the opportunity it creates to slow down, if not reverse, aging. “It’s a pretty remarkable finding, and if it holds up it could be quite important in the history of aging research,” Dr. Guarente said.
. . .
Ten years ago, the Japanese biologist Shinya Yamanaka amazed researchers by identifying four critical genes that reset the clock of the fertilized egg. The four genes are so powerful that they will reprogram even the genome of skin or intestinal cells back to the embryonic state.
. . .
Dr. Izpisua Belmonte believes these beneficial effects have been obtained by resetting the clock of the aging process. The clock is created by the epigenome, the system of proteins that clads the cell’s DNA and controls which genes are active and which are suppressed.
. . .
Dr. Izpisua Belmonte sees the epigenome as being like a manuscript that is continually edited. “At the end of life there are many marks and it is difficult for the cell to read them,” he said.
What the Yamanaka genes are doing in his mice, he believes, is eliminating the extra marks, thus reverting the cell to a more youthful state.
The Salk biologists “do indeed provide what I believe to be the first evidence that partial reprogramming of the genome ameliorated symptoms of tissue degeneration and improved regenerative capacity,” Dr. Vijg said.

For the full story, see:
NICHOLAS WADE. “Scientists Learn About Human Aging by Lengthening the Life Span of Mice.” The New York Times (Fri., DEC. 16, 2016): A22.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 15, 2016, and has the title “Scientists Say the Clock of Aging May Be Reversible.”)

1.87 Births Per U.S. Couple in 2015

(p. A2) The U.S. is experiencing a baby lull that looks set to last for years, a shift demographers say will likely ripple through the U.S. economy and have an impact on everything from maternity wards to federal social programs.
. . .
Demographic Intelligence, a Charlottesville, Va., firm that forecasts birth trends, projects there were about 4 million babies born in the U.S. in 2015, up slightly from the 3.99 million babies born the previous year. The total fertility rate–a snapshot that measures the number of births the average woman will have during her lifetime–is expected to rise to 1.87 in 2015 from 1.86 the previous year, according to the firm. It says its projections, which rely on unemployment rates, consumer-confidence measures and other variables, have been about 99% accurate in recent years.
That is well below the relatively strong fertility rates that started during the late 1980s and lasted until 2007, when the total fertility rate peaked at 2.12 babies per woman.

For the full story, see:
JANET ADAMY. “Low Birth Rate Poses Economic Challenge.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., May 11, 2016): A2.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 10, 2016, and has the title “Baby Lull Promises Growing Pains for Economy.” The passages quoted above include a sentence (at the end of the second quoted paragraph) that appears in the online, but not in the print, version.)

Kahneman Was “Consumed with Despair” Over Writing “Thinking, Fast and Slow”

(p. C23) Mr. Lewis has always had a knack for identifying eccentrics and horde-defiers who somehow tell us a larger story, generally about an idea that violates our most basic intuition. In “Moneyball,” he gave us Billy Beane, who rejected the wisdom of traditional baseball scouts and rehabilitated the Oakland A’s through statistical reasoning. In “The Big Short,” he gave us an assortment of jittery misfits who bet against the housing market.
In “The Undoing Project,” Mr. Lewis has found the granddaddy of all stories about counterintuition, because Dr. Kahneman and Dr. Tversky did some of the most definitive research about just how majestically, fantastically unreliable our intuition can be. The biases they identified that distort our decision-making are now so well known — like our outsize aversion to loss, for instance — that we take them for granted. Together, you can safely say, these two men made possible the field of behavioral economics, which is predicated on the notion that humans do not always behave rationally.
. . .
In a remarkable note on his sources, Mr. Lewis reveals that for years he watched Dr. Kahneman agonize over his 2011 book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” which became both a critical and a fan favorite. “Every few months he’d be consumed with despair, and announce that he was giving up writing altogether — before he destroyed his own reputation,” Mr. Lewis writes. “To forestall his book’s publication he paid a friend to find people who might convince him not to publish it.”

For the full review, see:
JENNIFER SENIOR . “Books of The Times; Two Men, Mismatched Yet Perfectly Paired.” The New York Times (Fri., December 2, 2016): C21 & C23.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 1, 2016, and has the title “Books of The Times; Michael Lewis on Two Well Matched (but Finally Mismatched) Men.”)

The book under review, is:
Lewis, Michael. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2016.