Scientists discover the Achilles' heel (or head) of PFAS, cancer-causing chemicals

Scientists discover the Achilles' heel (or head) of PFAS, cancer-causing chemicals

Brittany Trang led research on a new way to destroy "forever chemicals," which cause a litany of health problems, while working in William Dichtel’s chemistry lab at Northwestern University.

Northwestern University

Brittany Trang was staring at her glass test tube, which suddenly turned opaque white. At first, she had thought that the chemical reaction she tested left behind some residue, but when she couldn’t clean it off, she realized that the reaction produced corrosive compounds that ate at the glass. That, however, was a good sign. It meant that the reaction, which she didn’t necessarily expect to work, was in fact, working. And Trang, who in 2020 was a Ph.D. researcher in chemistry at Northwestern University, had reasons to be skeptical. She was trying to break down the nearly indestructible molecules of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS—the forever chemicals called so because they resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water, and thus don’t react or break down in the environment.

“The first time I ran this, I was like, oh, like there's a bunch of stuff stuck to the glass, but when I tried to clean it, it wasn’t coming off,” Trang says, recalling her original experiment and her almost-disbelief at the fact she managed to crack the notoriously stubborn and problematic molecules. “I was mostly just surprised that it worked in general.”

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Lina Zeldovich

Lina Zeldovich has written about science, medicine and technology for Popular Science, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Scientific American, Reader’s Digest, the New York Times and other major national and international publications. A Columbia J-School alumna, she has won several awards for her stories, including the ASJA Crisis Coverage Award for Covid reporting, and has been a contributing editor at Nautilus Magazine. In 2021, Zeldovich released her first book, The Other Dark Matter, published by the University of Chicago Press, about the science and business of turning waste into wealth and health. You can find her on http://linazeldovich.com/ and @linazeldovich.

MILESTONE: Doctors have transplanted a pig organ into a human for the first time in history

A surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital prepares a pig organ for transplant.

Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital

Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital made history last week when they successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human patient for the first time ever.

The recipient was a 62-year-old man named Richard Slayman who had been living with end-stage kidney disease caused by diabetes. While Slayman had received a kidney transplant in 2018 from a human donor, his diabetes ultimately caused the kidney to fail less than five years after the transplant. Slayman had undergone dialysis ever since—a procedure that uses an artificial kidney to remove waste products from a person’s blood when the kidneys are unable to—but the dialysis frequently caused blood clots and other complications that landed him in the hospital multiple times.

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Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts is a health and science writer based in Chicago.

The World’s First Longevity Charter City: An interview with Niklas Anzinger.

Niklas Anzinger is the founder of Infinita VC based in the charter city of Prospera in Honduras. Infinita focuses on a new trend of charter cities and other forms of alternative jurisdictions. Healso hosts a podcast about how to accelerate the future by unblocking “stranded technologies”.This spring he was a part of the network city experiment Zuzalu spearheaded by Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin where a few hundred invited guests from the spheres of longevity, biotechnology, crypto, artificial intelligence and investment came together to form a two-monthlong community. It has been described as the world’s first pop-up city. Every morning Vitalians would descend on a long breakfast—the menu had been carefully designed by famed radical longevity self-experimenter Bryan Johnson—and there is where I first met Anzinger who told me about Prospera. Intrigued to say the least, I caught up with him later the same week and the following is a record of our conversation.

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Ingemar Patrick Linden
Driven by a passion to probe the fundamental questions we are confronted with, Dr. INGEMAR PATRICK LINDEN has been on a journey of discovery taking him from Lund University in Sweden, to UCL in London, to University of California, to New York, where he has taught philosophy for almost a decade. Death. It does not get more fundamental than that. One of the ideas that has remained a firm conviction of the author’s since childhood is that we do not have enough time. We are but the beginnings of complete humans, fragments of what we could be. It was the realization that not all share this view, in fact, surveys show that most do not, that inspired, and necessitated, the writing of THE CASE AGAINST DEATH.