lol, WUT?

This is, quite possibly, the biggest science journalism fail in the history of ever.

IN THE HISTORY OF EVER.

*heavy sigh*

OKAY, when we discover new drugs and antivirals and such, we usually dont build these pharmaceuticals from scratch. We steal them from evolution, and try to make them *better* for *our* purposes in the lab– modify them, concentrate them, purify them, until we have a new drug.

You dont go suck on a tree if you have a headache– you pop a couple aspirin.

You dont get a prescription for moldy bread when you have a sinus infection– you pop a couple antibiotics.

We are always looking for new stuff to steal for new purposes– I can give you a couple examples from HIV World:
Green Tea: There is a compound in green tea that we might be able to modify, concentrate, and purify into a putative antimicrobicide gel to combat HIV-1 infection. You will not ever get a therapeutic effect from regular green tea.
Bananas: *insertobviousjokehere* Heh, ‘insert’… anyway, same story. There is a compound in bananas that scientists might be able to modify, concentrate, and purify into a new pharmaceutical. You are not going to get any kind of positive benefit from bananas, eating them or *ahem* otherwise.

So some scientists did the same thing we have been doing for ages– looking for a maybe-new-drug in nature:

Protective effect of structurally diverse grape procyanidin fractions against UV-induced cell damage and death.
UV radiation leads to the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These molecules exert a variety of harmful effects by altering key cellular functions and may result in cell death. Several studies have demonstrated that human skin can be protected against UV radiation by using plant-derived antioxidants. Here we evaluated the in vitro capacity of several antioxidant polyphenolic fractions from grape, which differ in their degree of polymerization and percentage of galloylation, to protect HaCaT human keratinocytes against UV-induced oxidative damage. These fractions inhibited both basal and UVB- or UVA-induced intracellular ROS generation in this cell line. Consequently, the same fractions inhibited p38 and JNK1/2 activation induced by UVB or UVA radiation. The highest protective effect was for fractions rich in procyanidin oligomers and gallate esters. These encouraging in vitro results support further research and should be taken into consideration into the clinical pharmacology of plant-derived polyphenolic extracts as novel agents for skin photoprotection.

If you add some goop from different purified parts of grapes to cells in culture in the lab, the cells did okay when exposed to UVA or UVB. Maybe, one day in the future, a pharmaceutical company will isolate/modify/purify/concentrate a component of grapes, and it will be in like, sunscreen or something, and called ‘polyhexasaxamaphone’ and you wont even know that sunscreen component was derived from grapes, unless the company uses it as a marketing gimmick.

*heavy sigh*

This is how the media interpreted this paper:

Drink wine, don’t get sunburned

*headdeskheaddeskheaddesk*

Comments

  1. #1 Mu
    August 4, 2011

    Now if they just report on MMS as “Drink bleach, don’t get better” it would even out.

  2. #2 oriole
    August 4, 2011

    You have a real knack for explaining stuff like this, Abbie. Maybe you should offer to write them a brief clarifying article.

  3. #3 Kemanorel
    August 4, 2011

    Based on that article, the rest of these are perfectly acceptable topics:

    “Take cyanide, kill your cancer.”
    “Poke your skin with needles, cure your appendicitis.”
    “Drink drano, clear your bowels.”
    “Snort cocaine, clear your sinuses.”
    “Shoot heroine, cure your fear of needles.”
    “Get Lukemia, cure your AIDS.”
    “Take Anti-retro virals, cure your fatigue.”

  4. #4 Mary
    August 4, 2011

    Oy. I don’t think I’ve seen a better example of the Science News Cycle this morning. But it’s early….

    http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1174

  5. #5 Kemanorel
    August 4, 2011

    Well, one nice thing is that is seems like the majority of comments I read on that link were being sarcastic and making fun of the article, so not many people are taking this seriously.

  6. #6 Woden
    August 4, 2011

    Good grief; how irresponsible can these science reporters get? Not only did they misrepresent the work as supporting dietary changes as an alternative to sunblock (which just goes to show that they didn’t get the article… or perhaps that they only skimmed it), but they present drinking wine rather than eating grapes as the preferred option!

  7. #7 Anjula
    August 4, 2011

    Maybe they were playing a word association game to liven up the work day. Grapes..wine…cancer…icky I mean sunburn…wait I think we’ve got something…PRINT IT!

  8. #8 Copyleft
    August 4, 2011

    “Science reporting” is practically an oxymoron these days, at least as far as popular media is concerned.

    Is it a question of lack of scientific background? They’re good at “reporting,” but not at science? I often encountered the reverse question in college, when I met numerous professors who were experts in their FIELD, but utterly incoherent when it came to teaching.

    Perhaps the notion that “a good reporter can write a story on anything” bears re-examination.

  9. #9 Copyleft
    August 4, 2011

    And another good cartoon summary of the funhouse-mirror that is science reporting:

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1623

  10. #10 gr8hands
    August 4, 2011
  11. #11 stripey_cat
    August 4, 2011

    Kemanorel, sadly people will take it seriously. People like my father, who will pounce on anything like this because it confirms their pre-existing biases – after all, an excuse to drink wine because it’s good for you? Open another bottle!

  12. #12 ErkLR
    August 4, 2011

    @Kemanorel [5]

    Take a look at the comments again, near the top is a gigantic derailment where some d-bag weed enthusiast* starts talking about how weed does the same thing and then argues ad nauseam about how wonderful weed is. Sadly it’s now a lot of comments like “That’s what I like to hear, drink up!”

    *smoke all the weed you want, but weed is not somehow related to every topic under the sun.

  13. #13 emptyR
    August 4, 2011

    I agree with your main point completely, but I just wanted to point out that you may have overstated how we make new drugs. While plenty of drugs have been derived from natural products, most modern drugs (including many antiretrovirals like HIV protease inhibitors and integrase inhibitors) would not be properly described as being derived from a natural source (unless you consider fossil fuels the natural product). The majority of small molecule drug discovery begins with a screen of a compound collection which does contain some natural products, but is mainly populated with synthetic molecules. These initial hits are then developed using medicinal chemistry to produce validated leads that are hopefully further modified into drugs after years of testing.

  14. #14 Kevin Crawford
    August 4, 2011

    I agree with emptyR. Whether the initial hit comes from a random combinatorial chemistry library or a natural small molecule library the real hero is usually a chemist who uses rational drug design to improve the compound; taking an activity in the micromolar range and improving it to the nanomolar range.

  15. #15 Mary
    August 4, 2011

    continue along with the word association from #7..

    sunburn = tomato = wine vinegar = wine = grapes = WE’VE JUST FOUND A CURE FOR MELANOMA!

    *We had an old ER doc that treated sunburn with cold tomato and vinegar..*

  16. #16 lost control
    August 4, 2011

    Oh well, reminds me of spinach.

  17. #17 Joshua Zelinsky
    August 4, 2011

    And then we wonder why people don’t pay attention to science they see in the news…

    The worst thing is that there’s now a decent chance that sometime in the next month I’m going to hear at least one person claim that being drunk makes one less likely to be sunburned.

  18. #18 Stephen Bahl
    August 5, 2011

    EmptyR: But that’s only because there’s no difference between a drug that was synthesized from petroleum and one that was synthesized from an extract of a tree or whatever. Thanks to some neat tricks, it’s a lot cheaper to make the drugs from petroleum. It’s still fair to say that they were “derived” from those other sources in the sense of having originally been discovered that way.

  19. #19 Rob Monkey
    August 5, 2011

    Why do I love ERV? Sure, snarky science reporting is fun, and the topics are usually interesting, but I can sum it all up in one word: “polyhexasaxamaphone.”

    1. If I ever patent a molecule in my research, this name is first in line.
    2. Chemistry humor AND a Simpsons reference? Nerd SWOON!

  20. #20 Dustin
    August 6, 2011

    Once, in Men’s Health, I read an article claiming that because there was a compound in watermelon that may increase circulation, eating watermelon will make your dick bigger.

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