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Project to create yeast with fully synthetic genome nears completion

An international effort to create yeast cells with a fully synthetic genome is nearing completion, with the eventual aim of unraveling the mysteries of…



An international effort to create yeast cells with a fully synthetic genome is nearing completion, with the eventual aim of unraveling the mysteries of genomes and ushering in a tool for producing complex medicines.

Scientists hope to create the synthetic organism by stitching together small pieces of DNA into artificial chromosomes and trimming out some genetic fat in the process.

The Synthetic Yeast Genome Project — abbreviated Sc2.0 — dates back more than 15 years. Now, in the consortium’s biggest update since revealing five synthetic chromosomes in 2017, its scientists published 10 papers describing the creation of most of the remaining chromosomes, along with a wholly new one that does not exist in nature.

Jef Boeke

“We’ve got all 16 chromosomes completely synthesized,” Jef Boeke, a synthetic biologist at NYU Langone Health and leader of the project, told Endpoints News. The group is still working on bringing those chromosomes, each in different yeast strains, together into a single organism. “We’re about a year or two away from completing that whole thing,” Boeke said.

Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute, led by the eponymous geneticist who rose to fame as a leader of the Human Genome Project, have previously built viruses and bacteria from synthetic DNA. But the Sc2.0 yeast would be the most complex synthetic organism yet. And since yeast is more closely related to animals than bacteria, it’s a better stepping stone for answering questions about how human genomes work.

“This is a gargantuan task,” J. Craig Venter, whose institute was not involved in Sc2.0, said in an interview. “Having a completely synthetic yeast would be a major milestone. I can’t say how impressed I am with what they’ve managed to pull off,” he said.

J. Craig Venter

Making a synthetic genome is not as simple as creating a carbon copy of what nature has already produced. The project is partly motivated by the belief that scientists can improve upon what nature has created.

“These synthetic yeast cells allow us to think about how the genome could have been organized,” Patrick Cai, a synthetic biologist at the University of Manchester, said in an email. “Our understanding of genomes is largely based on the observation of these natural genomes. The ability to build synthetic genomes will lead us to a much deeper understanding of the first principles of life.”

Patrick Cai

So far, the scientists have brought seven and a half synthetic chromosomes together under one Baker’s yeast cell, accounting for 54% of the organism’s DNA. That process of consolidation has proven trickier than expected, but scientists are already envisioning future uses for the completed cell.

“Baker’s yeast has always been the world’s number one microbe for making things for humans,” said Tom Ellis, a synthetic biologist at Imperial College London whose lab constructed one of the yeast chromosomes. “And with a finished synthetic cell, it opens up the possibility of making those products — biochemicals, drugs, antibodies, vaccines, biomaterials — in more optimal ways and with more diverse chemistry too.”

Decluttering and debugging a genome

Dreams of writing genomes, rather than just reading them, took hold at the turn of the century soon after scientists finished sequencing the first human genome. Researchers at Venter’s institute “booted up” the first bacteria with a synthetic genome in 2010 and refined and minimized its code in subsequent years.

Tom Ellis

For Boeke, creating a synthetic yeast genome was the natural next step. Yet, as simple as a yeast cell is compared to a human, its genome is still much larger than that of bacteria. It took about eight years before the first synthetic yeast chromosome was finished in 2014. In the years since, with the help of labs around the world and armies of undergrads, the Sc2.0 consortium has finally finished constructing the chromosomes.

One of the surprises that the group faced was that while the yeast was often healthy with one synthetic chromosome, the cells sometimes got sick when multiple synthetic chromosomes were added, sending the scientists back to the drawing board to figure out what went wrong and debug the design.

“It indicates that there are more mysteries within the genomic sequences than we thought,” said Junbiao Dai, deputy director of the Shenzhen Institute of Synthetic Biology, whose lab made one of the chromosomes. “Debugging is a really big time-consuming process.”

Junbiao Dai

 The Sc2.0 project shows that “you have to build it to understand it,” Venter said. “Every time we or somebody else tries to make something, we find out that there are huge gaps in our knowledge.”

The synthetic yeast genome has thousands of changes, reducing its length by about 10% compared to a natural genome, Boeke said. Some of those changes include stripping out repetitive DNA sequences that the scientists believe have accumulated over time and are unnecessary. So far, removing ones called transposons hasn’t had a negative effect on the cells.

The team also did some reorganizing. Hundreds of genes encoding tRNA molecules — which are crucial for protein production — are normally scattered across the yeast’s chromosomes. Cai’s lab took those genes and put them all together on a synthetic tRNA neochromosome.

Repetitive regions and tRNA genes are both hotspots for genetic mishaps that damage DNA. While clumping the tRNA genes together “could really create a nightmare,” some additional tinkering to reduce their liabilities seems to have worked, Boeke said. “We’re seeing if we can build a more stable genome than the natural genome.”

Jay Keasling

They also installed tidbits of DNA throughout the genome that they can use to easily add, remove, or rearrange genes. That technique, called Scramble, allows scientists to rapidly generate thousands to millions of genetic variants of yeast. Boeke compares the approach to shuffling a massive deck of cards, each representing a gene, over and over.

“One of those hands is going to give you a royal flush, the best possible hand in poker. And another one’s going to give you the best hand in gin rummy,” Boeke said, with different “winning hands” for researchers making antibodies, biofuels, or vaccine antigens. “It’s going to be a very practical tool for biotech companies that are trying to optimize yeast to produce useful products.”

“It’s such a cool project, and coordinating all these institutions and investigators is a herculean task,” said Jay Keasling, a bioengineer at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the effort. “It’s a stepping stone to what comes next, and just like DNA sequencing got cheaper and cheaper, doing this will get easier and easier.”

Designer genomes for making drugs

Scientists are already envisioning a new project, Sc3.0, to dramatically shrink the size of the yeast genome, only retaining genes that are absolutely vital to life.

“Imagine stripping back your smartphone to the most basic functions and having everything else as an optional app — its battery life would probably be a lot better. We’d like to try to do that for cells,” Ellis said.

Shen Yue

Shen Yue, chief scientist of synthetic biology at BGI-Research in China, is excited to expand the genetic code of the synthetic yeast, allowing the cells to incorporate new amino acids beyond the standard twenty building blocks used to make peptides and proteins. Those new amino acids could grant new footholds for making antibody-drug conjugates, she said, or creating protein therapies with improved properties, like less frequent dosing.

Sc2.0 was once viewed as a stepping stone towards creating a fully synthetic human genome. Boeke was previously among the leaders of a grassroots effort called Human Genome Project-Write, announced in 2016. Yet, without concerted funding, the goal of synthesizing a human genome remains far off.

“The human genome is 200 times larger, not to mention a lot more complicated and difficult to work with,” Boeke said. “It’s just not practical.”

Boeke said he withdrew from the group during the pandemic because his lab was busy helping with Covid-19 testing for New York City. But he also thinks that the time it would take to synthesize a full human genome poses a challenge. The cost of synthesizing DNA is another barrier.

Joel Bader

“I’m surprised that the cost of the raw starting materials hasn’t come down more,” said Joel Bader, professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University who was part of Sc2.0.

Several biotech companies are working on new methods for making DNA in the lab cheaper and faster. It’s too soon to say if they will succeed, but the value of making fully synthetic genomes could soon be put to the test when the synthetic yeast is complete. “When all of those chromosomes are consolidated, that’s when the power of Sc2.0 is really going to take off,” Boeke said.

“I have a bet on a case of very good wine with a colleague who thinks we won’t be able to do it,” he said. “But I’m pretty confident I’m going to be drinking some good wine.”

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COVID-19 Lockdowns Contributed To ‘Collective Trauma’ Among Americans: Psychologists

COVID-19 Lockdowns Contributed To ‘Collective Trauma’ Among Americans: Psychologists

Authored by Tom Ozimek via Th Epoch Times (emphasis ours),




COVID-19 Lockdowns Contributed To 'Collective Trauma' Among Americans: Psychologists

Authored by Tom Ozimek via Th Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The United States is still reeling from the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns and other aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic as Americans have suffered a "collective trauma," the American Psychological Association (APA) has said, citing a study.

People wearing protective face masks walk on the street in Brooklyn, New York on Oct. 7, 2020. (Chung I Ho/The Epoch Times)

While the national health emergency caused by the COVID-19 outbreak officially came to an end on May 11, in some ways the country hasn't returned to "normal." according to the organization.

The APA concluded in the results of its survey, released on Nov. 1, that there are "signs of collective trauma among all age cohorts" in the United States.

The COVID-19 pandemic created a collective experience among Americans. While the early-pandemic lockdowns may seem like the distant past, the aftermath remains,” Arthur C. Evans Jr., the organization's CEO, said in a statement.

The study found that adults between the ages of 34 and 44 reported the biggest surge in chronic health conditions since the pandemic, rising to 58 percent in 2023 from 48 percent in 2019.

The same age group also experienced the biggest jump in mental health illnesses, chiefly anxiety and depression. These rose to 45 percent this year from 31 percent in 2019, according to the study.

Chronically elevated levels of stress create risks for various mental health challenges and wear down the immune system, according to the APA. The association noted that the data suggest that long-term stress sustained since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Americans' well-being.

We cannot ignore the fact that we have been significantly changed by the loss of more than one million Americans, as well as the shift in our workplaces, school systems, and culture at large," Mr. Evans said. "To move toward posttraumatic growth, we must first identify and understand the psychological wounds that remain.”

Chronic stress can cause inflammation, breaking down the immune system and raising the risk of all sorts of ailments, including stroke and heart disease, the APA warned.

The study is the latest that suggests that the heavy-handed response to the outbreak, which included school closures, business shutdowns, and near-universal mask-wearing, has had a negative effect on people's physical and mental health.

Child Gun Deaths Rise Sharply

Recent research on child gun deaths adds heart-wrenching evidence to the growing pile of data suggesting that COVID-19 lockdowns and other restrictions had a devastating effect on society.

The study, authored by researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital and published on Oct. 5 in a journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that injury-related deaths among children rose sharply during the pandemic years 2020–21.

The spike in pediatric fatal injuries was driven by drugs and injuries involving firearms.

In 2021, when lockdowns and other COVID-19 restrictions were pervasive, more child homicides (2,279) and suicides (1,078) by gun were recorded than in any year since 1999, according to the study.

Some see a clear causal link between the explosion in child gun deaths and pandemic lockdown policies, which other studies have linked to a variety of negative outcomes, including delayed health treatments, learning loss, and mental health crises.

“Due to lockdowns and other misconceived pandemic policies, child gun deaths in the United States exploded exponentially in 2020,” Kevin Bass, a researcher and doctoral student in medicine, wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

While the study shows that firearm-related homicides began rising in 2018, Mr. Bass said that it’s “very clear that the huge leap to record levels occurred between 2019 and 2020, which is when lockdowns happened.”

The study’s findings dovetail with an April report from the Pew Research Center, which found that the number of children and teenagers killed by gunfire surged by 50 percent between 2019 and 2021.

Some studies have identified lockdowns as contributing to jumps in suicides, mental health crises, learning loss, and delayed health treatments.

“Our results show that major non-pharmaceutical interventions—and lockdowns in particular—have had a large effect on reducing transmission,” wrote the authors of the study backing restrictive measures, although the research didn't evaluate any other unintended impacts of the measures.

However, one recent study that looked at a wide array of research into lockdowns concluded that such measures can be an effective tool in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic but only if “long-term collateral damage is neglected.”

“The price tag of lockdowns in terms of public health is high: by using the known connection between health and wealth, we estimate that lockdowns may claim 20 times more life years than they save,” the study’s authors wrote.

The authors also said that what deserves a “special and urgent analysis” is the question of “to what extent, why, and how the dissenting (disapproved by healthcare officials) scientific opinions were suppressed during COVID-19.”

“Suppression of ‘misleading’ opinions causes not only grave consequences for scientists’ moral compass; it prevents the scientific community from correcting mistakes and jeopardizes (with a good reason) public trust in science," they wrote.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/08/2023 - 21:40

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The Unexpected Battle Between Vaccines And The COVID Virus

The Unexpected Battle Between Vaccines And The COVID Virus

Authored by Yuhong Dong via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Since the unprecedented…



The Unexpected Battle Between Vaccines And The COVID Virus

Authored by Yuhong Dong via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Since the unprecedented COVID-19 global pandemic that started in January 2020, humans have been in a constant battle with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Vaccine strategy targeting the SARS-CoV-2 virus is challenged in the COVID-19 battle. (Shutterstock/Lightspring)

A series of vaccine versions have been developed and administered globally, beginning in January 2021 when an mRNA vaccine based on the original Wuhan strain was implemented. Subsequently, a bivalent mRNA vaccine was developed based on the Omicron offspring. Currently, the most updated version is based on XBB.1.5 and is ready to be injected into people's arms.

Bivalent vaccines contain two different components. One component is to protect us against the original viral strain, while the other targets the most recent variants.

The vaccine is based on the gene code of a known virus, whereas the lead time for vaccine development normally takes an average of 10 years. Even with the current "green-light" policies for COVID-19 vaccines, it takes almost one year for the first generation to launch and a couple of months for the second and third generations.

However, due to the basic survival skills of SARS-CoV-2, the virus is always mutating in order to escape from a vaccine. Even before a vaccine is ready to launch, there are always a few mutants that have already found a way to escape from the antibodies induced by the sluggish vaccine, creating the next wave.

Regardless, the unprecedented speed of vaccine development won't be able to compete with the speed of viral mutation, as the virus is always taking the lead and will be one step ahead of the vaccine.

This is why even the top scientists cannot predict how the virus will mutate and when the next wave will occur.

SARS-CoV-2 Variants

From 2020 to early 2021, a number of major SARS-CoV-2 variants have appeared: Alpha (B.1.1.7), Beta (B.1.351), Gamma(P.1), and Delta (B.1.617.2).

Not including those old variants, once Omicron (B.1.1.529) was first reported in South Africa in November 2021, it quickly evolved into a few sister lineages: BA.1, BA.2, BA.4, BA.5, XBB.1.5, EG.5, and HV.1, which each took the stage, one after the other within an interval of a couple of months.

  • BA.1 and BA.2: first detected in February 2022.
  • BA.4 and BA.5: first detected in May 2022.
  • XBB.1.5 (Kraken): an offspring of two BA.2 sublineages first detected in October 2022.
  • BA.2.86 (Pirola): first detected in 2023 and is currently being monitored.
  • EG.5 (Eris): first detected in Feb 2023, peaked in October, and is now declining.
  • HV.1: first detected in July 2023, has taken the lead in the United States at the end of October 2023.

The fierce battle between the virus and human technology has become a marathon. With each generation of vaccine development, who were the winners?

First Generation Vaccine: Delta Emerged, Creating Global Havoc

In January 2021, the original mRNA monovalent vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna and based on the old Wuhan strain were launched at a rocket-like speed.

In June 2021, when more than 50 percent of the U.S. population had received two doses of these vaccines, the stage was set for various mutants to take over, including the well-known alpha and delta variants.

A key mutation in spike protein called N501Y, which can escape from vaccine protection, was discovered in alpha. It was also found in two other major variants prevalent during that time and significantly increased in the rate at which it spread.

Shortly thereafter, Delta (B.1.617.2) emerged and presented even more enhanced transmissibility and vaccine escape ability with its intriguing spike protein double mutations of L452R and E484Q, refreshing the viral spreading and escaping records. It was designated as a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 11, 2021.

These double mutations in the spike protein cause the vaccine-induced antibodies to significantly lose their ability to bind to delta, resulting in immunological evasion and causing major global havoc.

The increased binding affinity caused by delta makes it much easier to replicate in human cells. It was reported that patients infected with delta had a viral load 1000 times greater than patients with the original strain. It's also been able to spread twice as fast as the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.

In July 2021, preliminary data from Israel showed that Pfizer's vaccine efficacy was significantly reduced at five and six months after vaccination to 44 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

In a July 2021 outbreak in Massachusetts, 74 percent of breakthrough infections occurred in fully vaccinated persons, and the delta variant was detected in 90 percent of them.

The first round of the battle between the vaccine and the virus concluded with an overwhelming vaccine failure when the first generation of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine met the unexpected delta variant.

Vaccine Versus Virus: The First Battle Round

Vaccine: Monovalent.

Result: The vaccine failed.

Time lapsed: Seven months from the first monovalent vaccine launched in January 2021 until the dominant delta wave in July 2021 in the United States.

Since then, a concern regarding the vaccine strategy of generating vaccine escape variants has been raised by scientists, including researchers from Michigan State University.

Second Generation Vaccine: XBB.1.5 Won

People continued to witness the declining effects of the original vaccine against delta, even after boosters were widely administered. The government continually stressed that the original vaccines had sufficient efficacy, one time after another.

Almost all of Omicron and its subvariants have developed specific mutations that have made them spread more quickly while evading our immune response. It has been clearly defined as an immune escape strain according to this Nature review.

A surprising virus, Omicron (B.1.1.529) surged more quickly than any previous strain and completely took over by April 2022. This emergence of hypermutated, increasingly transmissible Omicron variant significantly threatened the vaccine strategy.

It harbors multiple amino acid mutations in the spike (including Q498R and N501Y), which significantly enhance binding to the ACE2 receptor. It has also altered the cell entry pathway which further contributes to its ability to escape from vaccine protection.

In mid-2022, BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of Omicron were the dominant COVID-19 variants in the United States and were predicted to circulate in the second half of 2022.

Thus, Pfizer and Moderna quickly took the initiative to develop bivalent boosters based on the original strain from Wuhan and Omicron BA.4 and BA.5. They made it within another miraculously short time frame of just a few months.

On August 31, 2022, the FDA approved the bivalent booster shots of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines designed to target the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, with Pfizer only providing the data on eight mice.

However, Omicron keeps quickly changing, splitting into even more diversified subgroups. Soon after the new bivalent vaccine was distributed, BA.4 and BA.5 became history.

A new variant XBB.1.5 began appearing in October 2022 and reached its peak in April 2023. It combines two descendent lineages (BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75) of Omicron. The featured new spike protein mutation (F486P) leads to increased transmissibility and significant escape from the vaccine.

Not surprisingly, the antibody levels to XBB.1.5 in bivalent mRNA-boosted individuals declined significantly to pre-booster levels after only three months. The bivalent booster vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19-associated hospitalization declined to as low as 24 percent at six months post-vaccination, according to CDC data collected from September 2022 to April 2023.

The second round ended when the second generation bivalent mRNA vaccine encountered the XBB.1.5 starting in April 2023.

Vaccine Versus Virus: The Second Battle Round

Vaccine: Bivalent mRNA.

Result: The vaccine failed.

Time lapsed: Five months after the bivalent booster vaccine launched in September 2022 and was utilized until the U.S. dominant wave of XBB.1.5 in January 2023 emerged.

Third Generation Vaccine: Doomed to Fail

As of September 2023, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines have been reformulated—for the third time—this time based on XBB.1.5, which is the great-grandchild of Omicron. This latest booster recommendation applies to all individuals, regardless of previous COVID-19 vaccination history.

However, one month before the 3.0 vaccine was approved, the dominant virus had already changed from XBB.1.5 to EG.5—the "Eris" variant, which spreads faster and has a stronger ability to escape from the XBB.1.5 vaccine.

Vaccine Versus Virus: The Third Battle Round

Vaccine: XBB.1.5 mRNA.

Result: Vaccine doomed to fail.

Time lapsed: Less than one month from the XBB.1.5 booster vaccine launch in October 2023 to the U.S. dominant wave of vaccine escape by EG.5 or other cousin variants in October 2023.

Omicron continues to change from XBB to JN, HK.3, EG.5, and  HV.1—all belonging to the huge and diversified Omicron family.

EG.5, carrying an additional F456L mutation, is significantly more resistant to neutralization by the sera from vaccinated people. That means even the most recent version of the COVID-19 vaccine based on XBB.1.5 is going to lose its protection with EG.5. Since the risk of breakthrough infection remains high, the WHO listed EG.5 as a "variant of concern" in early August.

While HV.1 shares almost all spike mutations that EG.5 carries, it took on a surprising additional mutation (L452R) from a remote ancestor delta variant in 2011, which had normally disappeared in the omicron variant. HV.1 can further escape the XBB.1.5-based vaccine-induced immunity and is even more evasive than EG.5.

The same detour trick of HV.1 is also used by JN.1 coming on the scene in August 2023. It gains an additional L455S mutation, switching from the XBB sublineage to BA.2.86 (Pirola).

The HK.3 virus has played a novel trick. It has two mutations in the adjacent spike 455 and 456 positions (L455F and F456L), thus called a "FLip." Together, this virus binds even more tightly to ACE2 and is taking off slowly in Brazil and Spain.

Both HK.3 (FLip) and JN.1 present even lower binding affinities, meaning the vaccine is even less effective than the current version, raising further concerns over vaccine strategy.

Despite the extraordinary speed of vaccine development against COVID-19 and the continued mass vaccination program, the never-ending emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants threatens to significantly overturn the vaccine's intended effects.

This is a tiring battle between vaccines and the virus. The winners and losers are clear. The microscopic tricks utilized by the SARS-CoV-2 virus variants are far superior to the vaccines' unproven technology.

Alerts have been raised and major concerns have been discussed by scientists as early as 2021 in top-ranked journals including The Lancet and Nature in addition to Nature Reviews, eBioMedicine (part of The Lancet Discovery Science), and other publications through 2023.

The common view is that the pressure exerted on viruses from repeated vaccination programs serves as a primary driver of the diversified variants of SARS-CoV-2.

If humans continue to develop vaccines based on these emerging new variants, there will continue to be repeated failures. How many more failures will it take to realize that all of these vaccine efforts have been in vain?

It is a time for rational deliberation to pause to reflect on finding the root cause of the viral infection.

We already have a dynamic shield of protection against serious viral attacks—our natural immunity. Only by facing our own innate immunity will the virus find its tricks useless.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/08/2023 - 20:20

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Beloved fitness brand may have very bad news for customers

Business has been good, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.



It's been an interesting couple of years for those of us who enjoy moving our bodies and working out. 

Whether you prefer to work out inside a gym or if you're fortunate enough to be able to go for a run outdoors, very few of us were spared during the covid pandemic, when most gyms shut down across the U.S. and activity outside was discouraged (at least, without a mask during the initial months). 

Related: Walmart is about to completely change how you shop (for the better)

For folks who could afford it, many turned to at-home solutions like a Peloton PTON or lululemon's LULU mirror. 

But these solutions were largely temporary, and when the country finally began reopening, many of us ditched our at-home equipment for the chance to get out there again and see the world. 

Now, you'd be hard-pressed to not spot at least a couple joggers before or during work hours in most suburban or metropolitan areas. Same goes for most large gyms, many of which are now packed with both old and new clients eager to get a pump in away from home.

Business has been especially good for Planet Fitness PLNT, the national gym chain that prides itself on accessibility, brand recognition, and low prices. 

Q3 earnings, which were reported on Tuesday, showed a revenue beat of 3.49%, clocking in at $277 million, and an earnings-per-share beat of 7.90%. 

There's a lot of zeal for getting healthy and back into the gym scene after the pandemic and ahead of the holidays. But not everything about the gym giant's earnings call was rosy – at least from a consumer's point of view. 

Planet Fitness weighs an unpopular change

Planet Fitness saw extreme growth across several of its major segments. 

"The 21.6% increase in franchise segment revenue was primarily due to increases in royalties, web join fees, and national ad fund revenue. The royalty increase was primarily driven by same-store sales growth, royalties on annual fees, and new stores. For the third quarter, the average royalty rate was 6.6%, up from 6.5%," CFO Tom Fitzgerald told analysts on the call Tuesday. 

Things have been good for the gym. Almost too good. 

"We're proud that we haven't raised the $10 Classic Card price in 30 years," interim CEO Craig Benson said on the call. 

"However, consumer expectations on price have changed in a highly inflationary world. We are exploring whether we have an opportunity to take price on our classic card without sacrificing member growth. To that end, we've been testing different price structures, messaging, and price points in several markets around the country for more than a couple of months now." 

All of this might mean that membership price hikes could be a very real part of Planet Fitness's future. 

"As we are a recurring revenue model, we plan to continue running these tests to understand the impact an increasing price has on membership growth," he continued.

Membership price hikes could be a very real part of Planet Fitness's future.

Getty Images

Subscription prices have been rising 

Many other recurring subscriptions have also toyed with price hikes in recent quarters. Netflix NFLX recently hinted it would be raising membership prices again in December, and in May Peloton introduced three tiers of (pricey) app-only memberships that cost up to $44 per month (previously, the most popular plan had been $12.99 per month). 

Planet Fitness hasn't officially issued notice that it will be raising prices, adding it's just in the experimental phase. As of now, a membership to the popular gym starts at just $10 per month, plus a $1 startup fee. 

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