Category Science

We are the Model Organism

The Incredible Shrinking Man is interested in the scientific culture of model organisms. A model organism is an animal species that is studied to understand particular biological phenomena, with the expectation that discoveries made in the organism model will provide insight into human biology. This research strategy is made possible by the common descent of all living organisms, and [...]

The Hayflick Limit

In 1961 microbiologist Leonard Hayflick demonstrated that a population of human fetal cells in a cell culture will divide approximately 50 times before they stop. With each cell division in our body the ends of our chromosomes, the telomeres, get slightly shorter. This process continues until they shorten to a critical length, appropriately called the Hayflick limit. At this point the cells [...]

7up 7down

Over the years science has put forth innumerable explanations as to why women outlive men. Of all people over 100 years or older 85% are women. Some think it is because men work harder than women. Others suggest it’s because women are more sociable and better at dealing with stress. Another reason given is that men are more [...]

Shrinking is Easy

There’s a basic asymmetry in macro-evolution. On the evolutionary scale shrinking is easy and growing large is difficult. This is probably due to the emergence, during a trend of increasing maximum body size, of a series of anatomical, physiological, environmental, genetic and other constraints that must be overcome by evolutionary innovations before further size increases [...]

Zebrafish Portraits

Although our last common ancestor lived approximately 450 million years ago the genetic profile of the zebrafish, or Danio rerio, is surprisingly similar to human beings. In addition they are easy to breed, have transparent embryo development and are very cost effective. These, and many other qualities, have made zebrafish into man’s most popular model [...]

Growth Deceleration

Adult size isn’t just determined by how fast we grow. It depends also, and perhaps foremost, on how and when this growth stops. Somatic growth results from both cell proliferation (hyperplasia) and cell enlargement (hypertrophy). In mammals, somatic growth is rapid in embryonic and early postnatal life but decelerates dramatically with age, declining toward zero as [...]

180 Loci

Height is a classic polygenic trait which means it’s influenced by multiple genetic and environmental factors. Up to 90% of the variation in height is determined by inherited factors. Until now only a fraction of this 90% has been profiled succesfully. However, recent advances in genetics and genomics now permit comprehensive genome-wide surveys of common [...]

Parental Height Minus 10

In an exiting paper by S. Matthew Liao,  Anders Sandberg, and Rebecca Roache, it is argued that human engineering may well be a reasonable tool to achieve a sustainable relationship between the planet and its human population. One of their more intriging suggestions is the possibility to control height through Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). This specific form [...]

Hhp (Human Height Pressure)

Tall people need more resources than short people. That’s why it’s rather alarming that the human species continues to grow taller. In fact our increasing height puts more pressure on the ecosystem services than the total population growth. If people become 20% taller this creates over 70% more pressure whereas a 20% population growth would mean 20% [...]

The Larons

People living in remote villages in Ecuador have a genetic mutation that may just hold the key to shrinking mankind. The villagers have a rare condition known as Laron syndrome. They are generally less than three and a half feet tall, they are proportional, and interestingly, they are also almost free of cancer and diabetes.
The Laron People (we prefer [...]