Pharyngula

More magic DNA snake oil

Klotho (KL) is an interesting gene. It produces an enzyme which seems to be involved in repressing cellular senescence by regulating the p53 pathway, mouse mutations in these genes produce the symptoms of accelerated aging, and there are even a couple of known human alleles correlated with changes in longevity and coronary artery disease. The current research is at the level of basic science, though, asking how this gene product fits into the regulatory web that maintains cell states; it is not ready for any kind of medical work, I don’t even know how we would take advantage of the information to tinker with aging processes, and as far as I know, there are no clinical trials of any kind in the works. So it’s promising and is useful information, but it’s not at all ready or even approachable for medical use, yet.

That doesn’t stop the quacks, though!

A commercial quack operation called Homeovitality is taking advantage of a tiny bit of research (to create pseudo-scientific buzzwords) and people’s ignorance to market fake therapies. One among several is based on a smidgen of truth about the Klotho gene and a lot of fakery.

Homeovitality® is an entirely new concept in health promotion. It is designed to help people achieve and maintain different forms of nature’s “super-health” and stay healthy. For the first time ever, Homeovitality® helps everyone to benefit from new “cutting-edge” genetic and other scientific discoveries right now using a safe, natural non-pharmacological delivery system.

You may be wondering how they are taking advantage of “cutting-edge” research. Here’s how.

Because of Dr. Matsumara’s work and completion of the Human Genome Project, the complete DNA sequence of the KL gene has been worked out. Therefore, to target your KL gene, a DNA molecule was prepared that was identical in sequence to 273 base pairs of an active part of everyone’s KL gene. The sequence of the KL targeting molecule is as follows;

5′- ACTACCGCTT CTCCATCTCG TGGGCGCGAG TGCTCCCCAA TGGCAGCGCG GGCGTCCCCA ACCGCGAGGG GCTGCGCTAC TACCGGCGCC TGCTGGAGCG GCTGCGGGAG CTGGGCGTGC AGCCCGTGGT CACCCTGTAC CACTGGGACC TGCCCCAGCG CCTGCAGGAC GCCTACGGCG GCTGGGCCAA CCGCGCCCTG GCCGACCACT TCAGGGATTA CGCGGAGCTC TGCTTCCGCC ACTTCGGCGG TCAGGTCAAG TACTGGATCA CCA -3′.

The KL targeting molecule, as well as the others was prepared, purified and sequenced by one of Australia’s leading genetics laboratories.

So they get onto the easily accessed NIH site and get the gene sequence, and then they order a vial of the purified DNA from a commercial outfit (this is trivial: the NIH even includes a link to suppliers of cDNA clones).

Now what?

I mean, really, just having a strand of DNA with the sequence of Klotho does nothing — it’s the action of the gene product in the cell that plays a subtle role in aging. What we need for a therapeutic use of this information is a way to regulate the activity of the protein in cells in a predictable way. So what does Homeovitality® have people do?

Drink it.

Drink a DNA solution? Are they insane? That’s just going to get broken down and do nothing, and besides, it’s not as if your body contains some shortage of Klotho genes — every cell in your body has a copy. Of course, even that objection is pointless, because you aren’t actually drinking any DNA. This is a homeopathic solution.

Homeovitality® products have also been succussed at each dilution stage so they will also help to promote desirable forms of hybrid vigour in a “like promotes like” mode of action involving some of the mechanisms (4) described by Dr. Kratz, (http://kulisz.com/how_does_homeopathy_work.htm).

Homeovitality® products are safe because firstly, they are used at similar dilutions to classical homeopathic disease remedies and secondly, hybrid vigour is a completely natural biological process that has been developed by nature over millions of years to enable all creatures to enjoy “super health” and disease resistance.

They’re selling bottles of water and pretending it’s medicine, with a cloud of pseudo-scientific hokum to justify it.

And here’s another sad fact: the creator of this snake-oil, Peter Kay, has a legitimate degree and a good collection of scientific publications to his name, some of them in topics with which I am familiar. None of them justify this homeopathic DNA nonsense. It looks like someone has realized that science doesn’t pay as well as grifting.

Comments

  1. #1 Steve LaBonne
    April 12, 2010

    It looks like someone has realized that science doesn’t pay as well as grifting.

    One thing I understood a long time ago is that it’s quite easy to make money if you’re unequipped with a conscience. (Unfortunately I do have one.)

    Something to keep in mind when rich people are being lionized as some sort of superior beings.

  2. #2 Brownian, OM
    April 12, 2010

    hybrid vigour is a completely natural biological process that has been developed by nature over millions of years to enable all creatures to enjoy “super health” and disease resistance

    Wow. So nature just wants us to be healthy. (But doesn’t it want the disease organisms to be healthy too?)

  3. #3 Celtic_Evolution
    April 12, 2010

    Homeovitality® products are safe because firstly, they are used at similar dilutions to classical homeopathic disease remedies they are nothing more than fucking bottles of water and secondly, hybrid vigour is a completely natural biological process that has been developed by nature over millions of years to enable all creatures to enjoy “super health” and disease resistance. they are nothing more than fucking bottles of water.

    There, filtered through the bullshit translator and fixed for accuracy.

  4. #4 Brownian, OM
    April 12, 2010

    One thing I understood a long time ago is that it’s quite easy to make money if you’re unequipped with a conscience. (Unfortunately I do have one.)

    I’m going to use that as my excuse. (Once, while on a road trip with a girlfriend, I forgot to pay for a quart of oil while topping up at a gas station in another province. A year later my girlfriend would be passing by the same gas station and I made her swear to me that she’d make a point of stopping to pay for the ‘stolen’ oil. She did. The clerk thought it was hilarious.)

    But I think—sometimes—that at least some of the quacks in the production chain of these types of remedies actually believe their own bullshit. Or they wanna believe. Or something. I think Sastra describes quite well the belief/disbelief waffling that goes on in these people’s minds.

  5. #5 Vidar
    April 12, 2010

    “like promotes like”

    I thought it was “like cures like”, such as a homeopathic sleeping pill would have a statistically insignificant amount of caffeine in it.
    Wouldn’t this homeopathic ‘remedy’ then make you age faster?
    They can’t even get their own woo straight.

  6. #6 Truckle
    April 12, 2010

    Peter Kay also thinks Garlic Bread is the future…

  7. #7 Brownian, OM
    April 12, 2010

    They can’t even get their own woo straight.

    Tsk. Such a science dogmatist, insisting on internal consistency. Homeopathic explanations aren’t meant to sound scientifically compelling, reasonable, or even not stupid. All they have to do is sound sort of convincing to the practitioner and the patient. Such consultations are like business meetings: full of positive-sounding but meaningless gobbledygook, but as long as nobody’s rude enough to mention the pile of elephant dung in the room, we’ll call it synergy.

  8. #8 Sili
    April 12, 2010

    This is a homeopathic solution.

    Well, duh.

    RNA ain’t exactly cheap, is it? How is one to make a profit if one has to dole out actual molecules to the marks?

  9. #9 Michelle R
    April 12, 2010

    It just saddens me that people will buy this.
    Yes. People are drinking their expensive bottled water. Someone. Somewhere. Right now. Thinking it’ll fiddle their DNA through their stomach.

  10. #10 theshortearedowl
    April 12, 2010

    I have always wondered about doing this – get my PhD, start a company selling miracle weight loss/quit smoking/anti-aging/hair regrowth with that little tinge of science-y sounding, quantum/genetic/epigenetic woo to make ’em bite. Retire on yacht in Bahamas. How’s this guy doing?

  11. #11 Glen Davidson
    April 12, 2010

    I was all ready to send my money in, but I didn’t see the word “quantum” in their advert. I mean, if they said that the essence of DNA was transferred to the water quantumly, I’d be pretty sure they were genuine.

    What’s this world coming to, when in this day of advanced physics woo is being sold without “quantum” being mentioned (even if it is elsewhere, it should be in every paragraph)?

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  12. #12 Caine, Fleur du mal
    April 12, 2010

    It is designed to help people achieve and maintain different forms of nature’s “super-health”

    How does this different forms of “super-health” work? Is this like superheroes, where some of them get really cool abilities, and some have to use cool utility belts?

  13. #13 ajbjasus
    April 12, 2010

    I’m all for the homeopathic delivery mechanism. Makes perfect sense commercially too – they’d only need to order a small amount of the DNA sequence from the lab to make millions of gallons of the super health thingy.

  14. #14 Moggie
    April 12, 2010

    Because of Dr. Matsumara’s work and completion of the Human Genome Project…

    Do you see what they did there?

    Will the, uh, reputable homeopaths – you know, the ones who are sincere in their fantasy – denounce this snake oil? How can they?

  15. #15 Steve LaBonne
    April 12, 2010

    Makes perfect sense commercially too – they’d only need to order a small amount of the DNA sequence from the lab to make millions of gallons of the super health thingy.

    Exactly, using the homeopathic angle is a brilliant cost-minimizing idea. This guy may be a total scumbag but he’s no dummy.

  16. #16 spunmunkey
    April 12, 2010

    Ah fuck – this bastion of magic water is based in Australia… *facepalm*

  17. #17 Shplane
    April 12, 2010

    #12

    It obviously attaches tiny capes to your DNA.

  18. #18 FrankO
    April 12, 2010

    I wonder how many of you living in the USA drink Dasani, the water from Coca Cola? You’re paying a very high price for tap water that’s been passed through a crude filter. It offers no benefit to anyone or anything other than Coca Cola’s revenue. My point is that all of us are vulnerable to snake oil marketing if the product “feels” right. Many suckers for homeopathy are doing little different from bottled water drinkers.

    BTW I pick on Dasani because when it was marketed in the UK it swiftly became scorned and was rapidly withdrawn. Why? Because a hilarious episode of a popular TV sitcom (“Only Fools and Horses”) had already involved a scam artist trying to sell bottled tap water with a fancy name. The value of humor in helping people to see idiocy where it exists should never be underestimated (as PZ Myers so beautifully illustrates!).

  19. #19 Moggie
    April 12, 2010

    #15:

    Exactly, using the homeopathic angle is a brilliant cost-minimizing idea. This guy may be a total scumbag but he’s no dummy.

    In How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World, Francis Wheen writes:

    An even more fantastic ratio of 200C is claimed for Oscillococcinum, a product for ‘the relief of colds and flu-like symptoms’, whose active ingredient is a duck’s liver … Oscillococcinum had sales of $20 million in 1996, and all from a single duck’s liver – prompting US News & World Report to describe the hapless bird as ‘the $20 million duck’.

    I’m not sure how “succussion” is done for remedies produced on an industrial scale. When a homeopath is producing remedies manually, they can claim to impart their magic to the solution: ensuring that the water knows that it needs to remember duck’s liver, rather than any of the other shit it’s come into contact with. But when a factory is churning out pills and bottles by the truck-load, how is that done? Do they just get a wizard in once a week to press a button in a special way? Or is there a bored homeopath on the premises at all times to keep the molecules in line?

  20. #20 Brownian, OM
    April 12, 2010

    There’s more to the Dasani failure in the UK, FrankO. Apparently, the marketing execs were unaware that people from the UK don’t speak American, and early adverts referred to Dasani as containing ‘spunk’.

    Ha-ha! ‘Spunk’. I’d have seen that SNAFU, er, coming.

  21. #21 Menyambal
    April 12, 2010

    “Um, some of the DNA stuff from this guy who was preparing the solution got into the water, you know, one of his skin cells, see, and it got homeopathed, and I, like, drank it, see, and that’s the DNA that is why the children don’t look like you. Really, Sweetie. Honest.”

  22. #22 SteveM
    April 12, 2010

    At least Dasani is marketed as water, and I don’t think Coca-Cola claims it to be anything but filtered water (no magical pure spring in the middle of the wilderness as the source). So I would not really call them peddlers of “snake oil” (um, except for all their other drinks. okay, so they are peddlers of snake oil, just Dasani is not one of those “oils”). And as foolish as you may think people are for buying bottled water, at least they know it is just water and not because they believe it is some magical elixer to cure some illness or other.

  23. #23 Moggie
    April 12, 2010

    #20:

    There’s more to the Dasani failure in the UK, FrankO. Apparently, the marketing execs were unaware that people from the UK don’t speak American, and early adverts referred to Dasani as containing ‘spunk’.

    Good grief. How the hell did that get all the way to published advertising without someone saying “er, guys?” Unless everyone involved thought it was a homeopathic contraceptive, I suppose.

  24. #24 desertfroglet
    April 12, 2010

    Oh, buggerit! This lot and the crop circle DNA guy are both in SE Qld. What’s happening down there? Is there something in the water? Or perhaps not enough in the water?

  25. #25 nejishiki
    April 12, 2010

    Do they drink a solution containing the promoter region too? How about the 3′ UTR?
    http://genome.ucsc.edu/cgi-bin/hgGene?hgg_gene=uc001uus.1&org=human#links

  26. #26 Pierce R. Butler
    April 12, 2010

    Everybody bashes snake oil, but when do you ever see lab reports from someone giving it a fair test?

    I googled “snake oil” (only 2 million hits, of which this post is already number one under “News results”), and went directly to the “Shopping results”. Of the top three there, one is a rather wholesome-sounding blend of vegetable oils, and the other two are (apparently) petroleum-based products used for lubricating the tools plumbers call snakes.

    Rather a pity, that – one could do a lot of research easily on a substance costing only $17/gal retail.

    Further digging at “Looking for Snake Oil? Find exactly what you want today. Yahoo.com” led to a $1/oz Eko snake oil product, disillusioningly given a one-star review by an intrepid researcher who reports, “This is not the snake oil that I have always used it is only mineral oil…”

    Dunno what they used in the good ol’ days, but think how many slippery slithery serpents you’d have to collect to extract a gallon of oil, even with high-efficiency distillation apparatus. And a Real Scientist? would have to keep each source distinct: … cobra oil, coral snake oil, corn snake oil…

    Careers could be built on this! Somebody get me a grant!

  27. #27 charchomp
    April 12, 2010

    that name seems familiar , in England Peter Kay is a renownoed comedian , check out http://www.peterkay.co.uk

  28. #28 llewelly
    April 12, 2010

    Pierce R. Butler, you should look into caecilian oil. It’s all natural, it’s organic, and it doesn’t come from the dubious animal that enabled Eve to eat of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

  29. #29 James Sweet
    April 12, 2010

    It looks like someone has realized that science doesn’t pay as well as grifting.

    I keep trying to tell my wife that we should invent some phony miracle cure or pretend to be mediums or something and then hawk our services on the internet. That’s where the real money is.

    She’s got this bizarre idea that such things are unethical, though. Who knows where she’s getting that from, but for now, I guess I’m stuck with honest software engineering work. Ho hum.

  30. #30 FrankO
    April 12, 2010

    At least Dasani is marketed as water, and I don’t think Coca-Cola claims it to be anything but filtered water (no magical pure spring in the middle of the wilderness as the source).

    You’re right of course. However, Dasani does contain measurable trace additions of magnesium sulphate and other salts, which might have physiological effects. Maybe the Homeovitality people should succuss their KL DNA to 30C in Dasani to get some real effects?
    Brownian, it occurs to me that homeopathically diluted spunk ought to serve as an oral contraceptive.

  31. #31 IslandBrewer
    April 12, 2010

    Homeovitality® products have also been succussed at each dilution stage so they will also help to promote desirable forms of hybrid vigour in a “like promotes like” mode of action involving some of the mechanisms (4) described by Dr. Kratz,

    “Hybrid vigour” doesn’t have anything to do with diluting useless expensive oligos into nothing! Or with “like promotes like” crapulence! It’s about … aw, what’s the point.

    Really, I want to start selling small bottles of water for ridiculous sums, too. Maybe in a “like promotes like” way, their getting rich off of water will making other grifters get into the racket and start getting rich off of the same marks.

  32. #32 Brownian, OM
    April 12, 2010

    She’s got this bizarre idea that such things are unethical, though. Who knows where she’s getting that from, but for now, I guess I’m stuck with honest software engineering work.

    Don’t blame her. A link provided by RickK in another thread suggests that Deepak Chopra would claim she got the idea by “tapping into the basic fabric of the cosmos.”

  33. #33 SteveM
    April 12, 2010

    Dasani does contain measurable trace additions of magnesium sulphate and other salts, which might have physiological effects.

    Of course they do: flavor. Distilled or de-ionized water tastes terrible (as in completely tasteless).

  34. #34 Brownian, OM
    April 12, 2010

    Brownian, it occurs to me that homeopathically diluted spunk ought to serve as an oral contraceptive.

    Er, I think I’ll stick with condoms. Sure, they may taste unpleasant, but if you choke enough of ’em down the last thing on your mind is sex. (That is how they work, right? Why yes, I did go to a Catholic school. Why do you ask?)

  35. #35 Mu
    April 12, 2010

    Finally a scientific breakthrough for homeopathy! No more guessing on dream interpretation, solid genetic facts. Find the gene for opium, voila, homeopathic analgesic. Get dependent – just up the dilution!

  36. #36 Die Anyway
    April 12, 2010

    Damn. Homeopathic gene therapy. Who would have thought it would be so easy? What were those scientists thinking… viruses, nano particles… who needs a vector when you can just drink the stuff? I wonder if you can dilute it in Southern Comfort? I’ll drink to that!

  37. #37 Jadehawk, OM
    April 12, 2010

    hybrid vigour in a “like promotes like”

    that sounds like a very strange breeding program.

    and a contradictory one at that, since hybrid vigor would be achieved by the opposite of “like promotes like” :-p

  38. #38 KOPD
    April 12, 2010

    Is that “like” like or…
    [/middleschool]

  39. #39 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    April 12, 2010

    It is like driking/taking ginkgo biloba. Nothing happens.

  40. #40 Menyambal
    April 12, 2010

    It is like whacking a statue of Samuel Hahnemann over the head with a walking stick. Nothing happens.

    Except a satisfying “bonggg”.

  41. #41 KOPD
    April 12, 2010

    A satisfying bong? No thanks, not really my thing. But please, help yourself.

  42. #42 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 12, 2010

    I’ll stick with condoms. Sure, they may taste unpleasant, but if you choke enough of ’em down the last thing on your mind is sex.

    Graffito seen on a condom dispensing machine: “This gum tastes like rubber”.

  43. #43 blf
    April 12, 2010

    The main reason Dansai was pulled in the UK is because, first, it was contaminated with bromate (discovered about a month after launch), and secondly, it quickly came out the stuff was just tap water. As a memorable quote in The Grauniad put it:

    Dasani was revealed earlier this month to be tap water taken from the mains. Then it emerged that what the firm described as its “highly sophisticated purification process”, based on Nasa spacecraft technology, was in fact reverse osmosis used in many modest domestic water purification units.

    The most appalling thing about it was the bromate was introduced by Coca-ColaPoison-Poison’s treatment process, which converted bromide in the water into bromate. As a result of these and other fiascos (including the ones mentioned by others), Dasani is not, as far as I know, available anywhere in Europe.

  44. #44 bplurt
    April 12, 2010

    Graffito seen on a condom dispensing machine: “This gum tastes like rubber”.

    … and below:

    “Yeah, but it blows great bubbles!”

  45. #45 Janet Holmes
    April 12, 2010

    I went into my pharmacist yesterday and found that he had melatonin for sale on the shelf. HOMEOPATHIC melatonin in a x6 dilution. So I told him what I thought of that and he justified his position by saying it was the only sort of melatonin he was allowed to sell because normally it requires a prescription. So you can buy melatonin off the self so long as it hasn’t got any melatonin in it!! But surely it should keep you awake and tense rather than help you relax and sleep?

    And isn’t it misleading advertising to label it Melatonin when there isn’t any in there?

  46. #46 herlathing
    April 12, 2010

    Ah, succussion! The very means by which I downloaded a free copy of Graphic Convertor, shook my laptop, and ended up with a licensed copy of PhotoShop! All hail succussion!

  47. #47 David Marjanovi?
    April 12, 2010

    I wonder how many of you living in the USA drink Dasani, the water from Coca Cola? You’re paying a very high price for tap water that’s been passed through a crude filter. It offers no benefit to anyone or anything other than Coca Cola’s revenue.

    What? It’s still being sold??? I mean, tap water is already filtered. If it weren’t, it couldn’t be sold as tap water.

    However, Dasani does contain measurable trace additions of magnesium sulphate and other salts, which might have physiological effects

    …and might already be present in your tap water. They are the entire difference between tap water from different places.

    (Except for the lead in old pipes.)

  48. #48 Dust
    April 12, 2010
  49. #49 https://me.yahoo.com/a/yJNTxfs5j.KZJAp9er13NOGPJqo-#d62e3
    April 13, 2010

    Apparently, the marketing execs were unaware that people from the UK don’t speak American, and early adverts referred to Dasani as containing ‘spunk’.

    Well, there is a demographic group of people who love to drink anonymous spunk, but those guys like to get at the tap themselves, and they don’t dilute the stuff with anything.

  50. #50 phmag
    April 13, 2010

    Oh no! He’s an Aussie!

    Here is his “Homeopathy World Community” page:

    http://www.homeopathyworldcommunity.com/profile/DrPeterHKay

  51. #51 https://me.yahoo.com/a/K2PNji0at.txAjzTShOlxwLuFcVVFwbnng--#bd813
    April 14, 2010

    Melatonin, by prescription only? Where? I take it nightly, bought off the shelf. Small doses, like 3 mmg, but more than homeopathic surely.
    One reason for the popularity of bottled water is that a few years ago there was a lot of publicity to the effect that much city water was not healthy.

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