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Jack Parker
Jack Parker

[S1E2] Some Of The Things That Molecules Do

The episode covers several facets of the origin of life and evolution. Tyson describes both artificial selection via selective breeding, using the example of mankind's domestication of wolves into dogs, and natural selection that created species like polar bears. Tyson uses the Ship of the Imagination to show how DNA, genes, and mutation work, and how these led to the diversity of species as represented by the Tree of Life, including how complex organs such as the eye came about as a common element.Tyson describes extinction of species and the five great extinction events that wiped out numerous species on Earth, while some species, such as the tardigrade, were able to survive and continue life. Tyson speculates on the possibility of life on other planets, such as Saturn's moon, Titan, as well as how abiogenesis may have originated life on Earth. The episode concludes with an animation from the original Cosmos showing the evolution of life from a single cell to mankind today, with music from Vivaldi's Mandolin Concerto.

[S1E2] Some of the Things That Molecules Do

Artificial selection is one example, eyes another, of the well-documented and inescapable process of evolution--change in a population of species over time--by natural selection. These are some of the things that molecules do.

He's also a pioneer in discovering and solving dermatological issues related to inflammation. That huge discovery will be our main area of focus today. Even though Dr. Perricone is best known for his books and his product line, he's a scientist at heart. As you're about to hear, he practices like one, and he talks like one, too. Our interview is pretty dense with science, but I also think it's extremely helpful, as Dr. Perricone tells a far deeper and more research-based story about the anti-inflammation movement than most practitioners can. He's also working on something new that he thinks might change your life. Stick with me, nerds, don't go away.

I looked at that and said, "Hmm, that's pretty interesting," and I talked to the professor and I said, "Is it possible that the inflammatory process is somehow mediating or driving the results here?" It was kind of a cursory answer like, "No, no, that's just the immune system reacting." I thought, "Gee, I didn't think the immune system reacted because the tumor tend to bypass." I kept that in mind, and we started looking at tissue samples of arteries and atherosclerosis, and there's inflammatory infiltrate in the muscular part of the artery.

[Dr. Nicholas Perricone] But, it's interesting, looking at tissue of adults, older adults. Without any pathology there, without any lesion, there was this generalized inflammation. I said, "That's crazy, that's just aged skin, and it's inflamed? What's going on here?" Of course, young skin has no inflammation unless there's some pathology present. That's where I really started saying, "Okay, I think I understand what's going on." But what was interesting, I said, "Okay, I understand skin to some extent because it protects us, it's the interface. But, what about the internal organs? What's going on in the arteries, what's going on in the heart, what's going on in the liver?" Being a nutritionist, I said, "Well, what do we do four or five times a day? We eat."

[Dr. Nicholas Perricone] It's a protein that's probably produced by the liver, and it's produced in response to general inflammation. And so, it's measurable by a simple lab test. You want to check C-reactive protein, because C-reactive protein is extremely predictive of things like cardiovascular disease. If you have high C-reactive protein... Or it's also indicative of a focus of inflammation. For example, if you have prostatitis or something. C-reactive protein, of course, it's high if you have autoimmune disease. And so, a way to follow and also search for certain diseases.

But, anyway, it's interesting that once I started looking at it and things were refined, there was a direct relationship between systemic inflammation and the foods we're eating. So certain foods are highly pro-inflammatory.

[Dr. Nicholas Perricone] Yeah, well, I was the only one who could read. I'm just kidding. So, I guess about 1980, 1981, I made those discoveries under the microscope, and then went on, I did my pediatrics internship. That was 1982 to '83, and then derm. So, I'd say, when I was doing my derm residency, I started playing with things, because I wanted to see... I could create inflammation in the skin, and I had enough models, because people would be coming in for light therapy for psoriasis and other things, and they'd have redness, erythema, which is kind of a mild sunburn. I could then take anti-inflammatories, apply it to the skin, and see if it would relieve it, and that was my first real investigation, looking at that.

[Dr. Nicholas Perricone] But, certainly, when I was looking at these tissue samples, where I saw inflammation, it was probably those people between... Starting around 50, 55, and then up. It's a process that happens with the whole aging system. And so, I continued looking at all of this. Okay, so, I put people on the anti-inflammatory, then tested. If we take someone, and we put them on the anti, we test them first and take a C-reactive protein. Then, put them on the anti-inflammatory diet. Within a very short period of time, days, maybe a week, or two weeks, maximum, a precipitous decline in C-reactive protein.

[Dr. Nicholas Perricone] We call it biochemical individuality. So that, you may need a certain nutrient 25 times higher than the person that's sitting next to you. Or, you may have a great sensitivity because of your history of your immune system, a number of things. So, pay attention to your own.

What we're trying to do is basically lay out a map for someone to navigate, and then, for the finer things, then you've got your own issues to contend with. That's what I'd like to see, and what I'd like to do with people. But, there's some new areas that are very interesting in how to activate the genes that control aging, like the sirtuins, and all that. Stem cells are preserved when you have an anti-inflammatory diet.

[Amy Risley] One of the things that I found fascinating about NutraGenetics is that it sounds like what you're saying is, that by eating a certain way, you can actually reprogram your genetics. So, does that mean... And then, that of your children, potentially, and your grandchildren.

[Dr. Nicholas Perricone] I certainly think that you could mitigate some of that. Psoriasis is a pro-inflammatory disease that is certainly somewhat genetic, okay? But, by following anti-inflammatory diet, and getting the right component of nutrients, you suppress those genes that would basically start this inflammatory cascade, and start making the skin just basically replicate faster.

[Dr. Nicholas Perricone] And then stress relief. If you're religious, prayer. Meditation is amazing, yoga, Tai chi, all that. There's really hard evidence, now, that something as simple as meditation can repair your mitochondria. Mitochondria are these little oval things, and there's little lines, they're called cristae.

[Dr. Nicholas Perricone] That was Adelle Davis, that quote. I really enjoyed her reading. She got me interested in before I formally studied nutrition, and I brought her information with me to med school so I could get into arguments with my professors about treatment of different things, which, of course, they thought was ridiculous.

[Dr. Nicholas Perricone] And so, there's this perpetuation. But now, with people have the world wide net, then they can do their own research, and there's a lot of people talking about it. Plus, things have changed, because we've shown that we can make a difference with things.

[Amy Risley] Right. Well, I think medicine has a lot to credit you for, in pushing forward with these theories. I know all of us do, in the sense that we've all benefited from learning about the anti-inflammatory diet, and reversing some of the things that we did to ourselves.

And, same thing, if you then eat a bunch of Brussels sprouts or something, you can then activate another transcription factor, Nrf2, that goes and attaches to the anti-oxidant response element of the DNA, and then puts out maybe 100 anti-inflammatory proteins, like phase II proteins.

If you then drink that water, you get a lot of benefits. Now, I was very skeptical, because I love biochemistry. For something to have activity in the body, it's got to do something. It's got to interact with the molecules in the cell. And so, there's something called a polar molecule. A polar molecule means there's more of a positive charge on one side, and negative charge on the other.

Those are the kind of molecules that interact inside the body, and hit certain triggers like activating transcription factors and other things. Hydrogen's a nonpolar molecule. I thought, "This is inert, how could this be?" When I read the article in Nature Medicine, and I saw these results, I said, "Well, it's got to be working by some mechanism, but what's the mechanism?"

[Dr. Nicholas Perricone] I said... Okay, I'm trying to get people to change their diet in a certain way, and then moderate exercise. But these things mean some self-discipline, and also to say on a narrow path. But, it seemed like if they're drinking hydrogen, many of these things can occur.

[Dr. Nicholas Perricone] Because, in the past, I've tried to reproduce certain studies, and I had about a 50% hit rate. I don't know why that is, but there are different reasons for that. So, I wanted to see, because one of the things they were professing in Japan, is that it's an energy drink. Because, you do feel energy when you drink hydrogen. Because they gave me a couple of cans when they came to my office, and I drank them down, and I felt a difference. So, what I did is I did it again with my exercise. 041b061a72