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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Resveratrol, Greek Coffee and Alchemy

Resveratrol was back in the news recently. On a Friday the journal Science published another sexy science paper by David Sinclair. On the following Monday GSK shut down daily operations at Sirtris, a company for which they paid $720 million... to David Sinclair.

The magical elixir, the fountain of youth we call Resveratrol, has found a new rival, boiled Greek coffee. Two can play at that game. It's known as Alchemy. According to Wikipedia:
The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base metals into the noble metals gold or silver, as well as an elixir of life conferring youth and longevity. 
David Sinclair and Dipak Das  have both ran afoul of the research community while pushing the sensational story of Resveratrol. In this paper the technical details the marred Sinclairs narrative are covered. The lab work is really where the science is taking place. The sexy narrative is the specialty of Sinclair and Das. The real science however, is not in the experiments they design to prove their preconceived notions. The real science would be in the analysis of their processes and the verification of their results.

We all want a magic pill. Some of us don't put any thought into such a reality ever coming to fruition, but it would be nice. Some of us still want the promise of Alchemists without the stigma of believing in charlatans and magicians. When people want to take a pot shot at Newton, for example, they bring up his belief in Alchemy. In the cold hard world of business, GSK has put an end to Sirtris. The cargo did not come. The elixir wasn't panning out and they (GSK) had all of the data to confirm their fears. They had been had! The journal Science however keeps the sexy science of Resveratrol alive.

Boiled Greek coffee is the latest offering for a candidate for the magic elixir of life. Here at the Cargo Cult Scientist however, we believe we are witnessing Alchemy in action.

The common thread to longevity is actually known. Smoking, drinking, stress, bad food, bad genetics... These things are going to shorten your life. The pharmaceutical companies will never offer you a "get out of the coffin free card". In the game of life, you have to believe in diet an exercise. It's not so much what certain people put into their body that makes them live longer. It is what they don't put into their bodies. Sadly, we have yet to solve the mystery of making money off of getting people to consume less.


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