I was getting caught up on my SNL episodes last night, and I was pretty surprised when Seth Myers mentioned a story on Weekend Update that I’d almost put on Try Nerdy last week.
I was exponentially more surprised when the same thing happened again, less than two minutes later. Yes, Seth was making multiple jokes about recent research, but the fact still stands — a lot more people know about those projects now than before the findings were worked into an SNL script.
Did you watch the November 12th episode of SNL? Do you remember which Weekend Update stories I’m talking about? No worries if you don’t — this post will refresh your memory, and take you beyond the one-liners.
With Emma Stone hosting and Coldplay performing, this past Saturday’s episode of SNL was already quite promising. However, when Seth Myers gave mention to not one, but two recent findings that I had come this close to posting on Try Nerdy…I was tickled.
Here’s a clip from Weekend Update that starts with the first nerdy reference (34:47) and ends with a second one (36:12):
The clip begins:
Researchers say that a new drug tested on monkeys has helped them lose weight with no dieting or exercise – it’s the easiest way to make the lean, sexy monkeys we’ve all been clamoring for.
Aside from being hilarious, this punchline makes a point — sometimes, research sounds ridiculous to the Average Joe. Whether it’s “fruit flies in France” or “sexy monkeys,” it’s not always immediately obvious how animal research relates to us as people. The common idea behind this type of research is that all living organisms — humans, monkeys, and, yes, fruit flies — are related on a big evolutionary tree, and that important biological mechanisms are probably conserved between us, or at least similar.
So about those monkeys. Monkeys are relatively quite close to humans on an evolutionary scale, so the discovery of a drug that makes obese monkeys lose weight effortlessly is kind of a big deal. Something that works in monkeys has a higher likelihood of working in humans, too. These monkeys, who became obese through overeating and under-activity, were given a drug that selectively destroyed the blood supply of fat tissues. Without a blood supply, the fat in these monkeys was broken down and reabsorbed.
Here’s fat in its normal state, thriving on a nutritious supply of blood:
Then this drug, called adipotide, kills the blood vessels supplying the fat, and the fat effectively melts away (the monkeys lost nearly 30% of their abdominal fat!):
Near the end of Weekend Update, Seth surprised me again with another story that very nearly made it onto this site:
A new study suggests that people with high blood pressure suffer from emotional dampening and have trouble recognizing emotion in others – they’re called dads.
This got a laugh, but it basically summed up a study done at Clemson University in South Carolina. Researchers asked 106 participants to evaluate emotional expressions in faces and sentences, and individuals with higher resting blood pressures were significantly less accurate at the task. Imagine the irony: your job is super stressful, which drives your blood pressure up, which induces “emotional dampening,” which makes you interpret your boss’s constructive criticism as sarcastic prattle (which will probably lead to more stress down the line).
The general idea at work here is that blood pressure can impact the central nervous system in complex ways; for example, hypertension is associated with decreased pain sensitivity. Perhaps a decrease in emotional sensitivity is part of the same phenomenon. Time (and more research) will tell, but until then, if someone misinterprets your words or fails to laugh at your joke, don’t get frustrated — maybe they’re just under a lot of stress…or eating a high-salt diet.
In any case, I’ll be paying closer attention to Weekend Update from now on, especially when I get blogger’s block.
Barnhart KF, Christianson DR, Hanley PW, Driessen WH, Bernacky BJ, Baze WB, Wen S, Tian M, Ma J, Kolonin MG, Saha PK, Do KA, Hulvat JF, Gelovani JG, Chan L, Arap W, & Pasqualini R (2011). A peptidomimetic targeting white fat causes weight loss and improved insulin resistance in obese monkeys. Science translational medicine, 3 (108) PMID: 22072637
McCubbin JA, Merritt MM, Sollers JJ 3rd, Evans MK, Zonderman AB, Lane RD, & Thayer JF (2011). Cardiovascular-emotional dampening: the relationship between blood pressure and recognition of emotion. Psychosomatic medicine, 73 (9), 743-50 PMID: 22042880