By Beth Landman
In the ongoing quest to extend the length and quality of our lives, biohackers have experimented with heat and cold therapy, intermittent fasting, and gut biome or blood marker testing. The latest: injecting peptides.
Short chains of amino acids linked by chemical bonds, peptides are the building blocks of proteins, and have multiple benefits. Ozempic and other semaglutides are among the peptides best known for their weight loss effect and ability to lower blood sugar, and epitalon is thought to activate and lengthen telomeres, the ends of chromosomes associated with longevity.
“Biohackers joke that if they were stranded on a desert island the one peptide they would want is epitalon,” says Amy Cherry-Abitbol, a personal biohacker herself, who founded the Water Mill wellness retreat Shou Sugi Ban House.
But there is one peptide, MOTS-c, that, when injected, mimics the effects of fitness without exercise. It is derived from mitochondria, the structures that produce cell energy.
The concept of reaping the benefits of a good sweaty workout while lying on a couch reading a gripping book is not a new one. Emsculpt uses high-intensity focused electromagnetic energy to force muscles into contractions that simulate a monthslong workout in just a half hour, but the impact of introducing MOTS-c goes beyond that to improve energy and endurance along with muscle tone.
“I’ve been doing this for over a year,” says Cherry-Abitbol, who is taking several peptides. “Overall, I feel and look better, and when I take MOTS-c, it increases my metabolism as well as the ability to build muscle and boost energy.”
Dr. Michael Aziz, an internal medicine specialist and author of The Perfect 10 Diet, has an office on Madison Avenue in NYC, where he prescribes MOTS-c and other peptides, and also offers consultations at Organic Edge in Southampton.
“High-intensity training, lifting weights until we lose our breath, can extend life by years, but it’s not easy for everyone to do,” he maintains. “When we exercise, the levels of MOTS-c increase about two times in the blood, and 11 times in the cells. Mice who took it were able to reduce glucose and be less obese despite their high-fat diet, and they were comparable to younger mice in skeletal muscle.”
MOTS-c has other potential health benefits. “It increases glucose metabolism and clearance by skeletal muscle, which actually decreases inflammation throughout the body, helping with longevity by combating obesity, diabetes and heart disease,” notes Park Avenue dermatologist Dr. Anetta Reszko, who also has certification in nutritional biochemistry, and specializes in anti-aging.
If this is making you rethink your gym membership, forget it. “Nothing should be an alternative to a healthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Aziz. “But it is a good substitute for people who can’t exercise at that level, or a supplement for people who do work out.”