Otto Warburg: A badass scientist

Trying to get back to penning posts a bit more regularly, will see how long it lasts….

warburgAround 1921, Otto Warburg (scientist, medical doctor, and Nobel laureate), applied for grant money for his research. His letter to the Association of German Science is one of a kind, to say the least. It simply stated: ‘I require 10,000 marks‘. Umm, badass level: 10,000. He was fully funded of course. And when he later won Nobel Prize; ‘It’s high time’, is how he reportedly quipped. I mean, right on!

As an aside, Otto Warburg is also known for Warburg Effect. He hypothesized that cancer cells thrive in the presence of glucose (sugar) via fermentation and the only way to stop it is by strengthening mitochondrial metabolism. However, it never got any traction and his contribution was neglected, until recent years. Turns out, Tom Seyfried, David Sinclair, Doug Wallace, Nick Lane and others have been actively researching and have shown interest in mitochondria and their function. Although mitochondria are, for the most part, considered powerhouse of a cell, recent revelations are beginning to show a different side of it. These scientists, biologists, and doctors are opening up to the possibilities that cancer (and many degenerative diseases) can be caused not primarily because of cellular malfunctions but also, or principally, due to impaired mitochondria – akin to Warburg effect. This article (and many others) suggests that we are now witnessing a renaissance in mitochondrial research. To which, Warburg Otto would have replied: It’s high time.

Mitochondria, I am learning, came into existence via a symbiotic union of external bacteria and living single cells (around ~2 billion years ago) and played a critical role in giving life to complex organisms on this planet. And, we carry 500 times more mitochondria than human cells, about 500 trillion. All this to say, maintaining mitochondrial metabolism may be the key factor in keeping our biological cells intact and in doing so, we may be able to delay or even prevent cancer and other age-related diseases. Easier said than done, but every research so far for enhancing mitochondrial function points to sound diet, intermittent fasting, high-intensity exercise, and more importantly, staying away from dopamine rush of sugar, carb, or any other processed foods that our grandmothers won’t recognize, so to speak. I say this so that I don’t ever find myself guilty of arrogance of good health. #nyresolution.