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Reversing the clock?

SCIENCE | A study in mice points to a possible fertility booster


Illustration by Rachel Beatty

Reversing the clock?
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For the approximately 1 in 5 American women who delay motherhood until after age 35, getting and staying pregnant can be difficult. But a new study may point the way to a potential solution for age-related infertility. Published Oct. 16 in Nature Aging, the study found that a unique molecule reverses declining egg quality in older mice.

Spermidine, a molecule found in all living organisms, has previously been shown to slow aging. In the recent study, scientists at Nanjing Agricultural University in China observed that older mice had poorer egg quality and less spermidine in their ovaries than did young and middle-aged mice. When the researchers injected the older mice with spermidine, their egg quality improved in comparison with control mice. Further, aging mice that received spermidine and later became pregnant gave birth to litters twice as big as those of control mice.

While the study indicates spermidine could be a promising fertility booster, the molecule’s safety and potential side effects need to be evaluated before being tested in humans.


Anti-crash course

Not all new drivers are created equal, and now there’s a virtual driving test to prove it. Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia showed that a previously designed, self-guided virtual driving assessment (VDA) could predict what skill deficits result in car crashes for young drivers.

In a study published Oct. 16 in Pediatrics, the researchers examined VDA results from nearly 17,000 drivers under the age of 25 who received their license in Ohio. The VDA tracks behaviors as drivers navigate low- and high-risk road scenarios. These behaviors include braking, accelerating, steering, and tailgating.

During a follow-up period of 465 days on average, the researchers found that a driver’s VDA score was predictive of future crash risk. They suggested these crashes could potentially be avoided if drivers who perform poorly on the VDA receive targeted interventions before ­driving solo. —H.F.


Pepper X

Pepper X Jeffrey Collins/AP

Heat you can eat (maybe)

Guinness World Records on Oct. 16 announced “Pepper X” as the world’s hottest chili ­pepper. Pepper X rates an average of 2.69 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU): In comparison, jalapeño peppers score 2,500 to 8,000 SHU, while police-grade pepper spray scores around 1.6 million units. Both Pepper X and the previous record holder, the Carolina Reaper, were developed by pepper breeder Ed Currie. —H.F.


Heather Frank

Heather is a science correspondent for WORLD. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, the University of Maryland, and Carnegie Mellon University. She has worked in both food and chemical product development, and currently works as a research chemist. Heather resides with her family in Pittsburgh, Pa.

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