Chromothripsis and your long-term health.
We never stop learning (if we keep our minds open to accepting new information that often proves what we thought before was wrong).
I've had my mind changed like that on the topic of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). As a backyard food grower, I'm acutely aware of the many diseases that afflict the crops we grow. As a grower of pawpaw (Carica papaya) in sub-tropical Durban, I know of GMO's most famous success story: how Hawaii's papaya industry was saved by GMO plants resistant to the ringspot virus. Impressive! So maybe genetic modification through gene editing is not the Frankenstein technology its foaming at the mouth, tree-hugging critics say it is?
But there are many forms of genetic manipulation. One of the newest is CRISPR-Cas9 editing. This is a "genome tool that is creating a buzz in the science world. It is faster, cheaper and more accurate than previous techniques of editing DNA and has a wide range of potential applications," says yourgenome.org.
CRISPR is an acronym for 'clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats' and Cas9 is an acronym for CRISPR-associated protein 9.
There's another acronym you should know: DSB or double strand breaks. These occur in DNA strands as a result of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing.
Just recently, scientists have discovered that DSBs result in a phenomenon known as chromothripsis, the "extensive chromosome rearrangement restricted to one or a few chromosomes that can cause human congenital disease and cancer. These results demonstrate that chromothripsis is a previously unappreciated on-target consequence of CRISPR-Cas9-generated DSBs*". PubMed article.
The GM Watch website quotes from a GM industry article which says that "The long-term impact on health of gene editing may not be known until around 2040.”
The GM Watch writers add: "The major worry with chromothripsis in therapeutic settings is that it can lead to cancer or an inherited disease in any children of the affected patient. It would only take a single cell to be affected by chromothripsis to result in a cancer.
"This has implications for animal gene editing, as edited animals could be prone to cancer. But it also spells bad news for plant gene editing, where chromosomal damage would lead to changes in the function of genes that could in turn result in unexpected toxicity or allergenicity, as well as unpredictable effects on wildlife."
Time will tell. My view on GMOs (without foaming at the mouth) is to avoid foods made using them, wherever I can do this, until we have a better understanding of what GMOs do to us when we eat GM crops, or eat animals that have eaten GM crops.
Example: this month I was gifted a box of a locally developed cereal that's been a household favourite for decades. I looked at the nutrition information and both the maize and soy used to make it are from GM sources. I'll pass on eating it for two reasons. First, I eat 99% wholefoods, and will rather make my own cereal from non-GM (and where possible) whole grain sorghum, barley, oats, maize, and rice. And you already know the second reason.
I think awareness is vital. Download the second edition GMO Myths and Truths PDF (330 pages) and give it a read to make up your own mind.
Breath. Life. Movement.
There's a theory called the aquatic ape hypothesis (AAH) which postulates that we became the naked ape – the only great ape without hair entirely covering our bodies – when we became semi-aquatic in the shorelines and rivers to forage for food, retaining the hair on our heads as a screen against the sun.
It seems most anthropologists reject it. But it's safe to say that humans have a range of affinities for water: from hydrophobest to semi-dolphin. Face it, immersion in water (800 times denser than air) feels magical. Like flying.
But for many, it can be scary once you're totally immersed. How long can you hold your breath? For 30 seconds? One minute? Two? Or longer?
And when you move and exert your muscles, it ramps up your oxygen use and CO2 levels. Can you hold your breath for 10 freestyle strokes? Half a 25m pool length? A full length? Two lengths? How does that feel?
However long you can hold, you have a limit. At some point you'll feel a rising sense of urgency to breath. Maybe you'll feel a strong urge to pee. Or you'll find you start swallowing involuntarily, to get the little air that remains in your throat into your lungs. Hold your breath longer, and your diaphragm and abdomen will start moving spasmodically.
That's not a lack of oxygen. It's rising carbon dioxide in your bloodstream, called hypercapnia. The good news is that your remarkable brain has a sensor which can become less sensitive to it through training, whether on land (safer) or in the water.
How does this relate to trail running, you ask?
The oxygenadvantage.com website likens breath holding benefits to those of high altitude training. This article is an excellent primer on the topic, outlining several land-based techniques, as well as answering all the FAQs.
Also, read Healthline's article on the subject.
If you prefer video and enjoy the underwater aspect of breath holding, watch free-diving coach Gert Leroy's YouTube tips to achieve a two-minute breath-hold. He has several other excellent videos too.
Then get a step-by-step introduction to free-diving in the entertaining YouTube film Free to Dive (57 minutes) which follows four newbies on their underwater free-diving adventures.
And finally, read our article to improve your breathing while running (without breath holding or you needing to be underwater... always a bonus that!).
If you're wondering how my own experiment is going, yes, I am feeling some cardio benefits but have only been training it for three weeks. Watch this space.
The world’s most polluted river.
That's the title given to the Citarum River in Java, Indonesia. (But have the title-givers been to the Umgeni River in Durban yet?!)
Anyway, big business got caught with its pants down by the DW Documentary channel, which found several textile factories exceeding safe emission levels, severely degrading the environment, and poisoning people with outflow water containing high levels of lead and other heavy metals, pthalates, nitrates, and nonylphenols, among many.
In Indonesia, 147,000 children under the age of five die each year, and the documentary makers say the data show that it's mainly from diarrhea from polluted water. Hair samples from 45 children along the Citarum analysed by a lab in Luxembourg confirmed 54 pollutants (out of 140 the lab can scan for).
The factories were Pan Asia, Lenzing, and Gistex, which supply many of the world's leading fashion (and sport brands). Take a look at your garment labels and if they say Indonesia, that garment might well have been made there.
The films ends on a high note. An Indonesian owner-run textile factory also situated along the Citarum showed how water can be purified properly (to drinking quality). And at the time of publishing, the Indonesian president announced that the water in the Citarum will be drinkable by 2025. Let's see.
Watch the film on YouTube.
People, Races, and Places.
~ Trail running stalwart Nicholas Rupanga (above) celebrates his 12th AFRICANX TRAILRUN in March. Photo by Chris Hitchcock.
~ X-Berg Challenge 2023 will be free. The unique race between trail runners, mountain bikers, and paragliders will not have official organisation. Join the the fun in the Berg over the long weekend in March.
~ South Africa has a third 200 miler option to add to Mac Mac and The Tusker (230mi): Tankwa 200miler. It starts at Letsatsi on 15 February.
~ Correction: Last issue I said that Durban's Krantkloof Nature Reserve was 'back in business'. That is incorrect. It's still not open to the general public. But you can join Green Corridors for their 8km return hikes on Sundays.
THAT'S IT... FOR NOW. HAPPY WEEKEND!