Friday, April 01, 2011

Weekend Reading: The Science and Technology, Edition

I've got some science and technology-related reading for you this weekend:

First up, a post from well-known pharma industry blogger Derek Lowe (if you have an interest int he drug discovery and development business and wonder how it looks from the inside, his blog is an excellent place to start) on the difficulties of replicating some of the big academic discoveries in industrial settings. It references a post from a biotech venture capitalist, which is also an interesting read. The point about the potential bias in academic studies ties into the point I often argue when reacting to food scares and the like- it is fine (good, even) to be skeptical about the studies your hear about. But you really need to be an equal opportunity skeptic. All scientists need money to live, so we are all theoretically susceptible to bias when our research findings have the potential to conflict with the source of that money.  This is not a problem that is unique to industry.

Next, Marion Nestle has a post up about food coloring and hyperactivity. It is short, but gives a sense of the history of this issue, of which I was only vaguely aware. I generally enjoy Dr. Nestle's posts and don't find her too preachy. Some of her commenters, on the other hand, live in an idealized world that bears no resemblance to the one I inhabit- so read the comments at your own risk! Also, Derek Lowe had an interesting post today about potentially favorable effects of some dye compounds- so the story is not a simple one. Perhaps this is a case where the data are not clear so people's opinions are influenced more by their own biases than we'd like.

Finally, this post about the aptly named Creepy app, which was developed by a privacy research to show how much location information can be easily gleaned from people's tweets, etc., is worth a read. I am feeling better and better about my decision not to go "all in" on social media!


  1. That's very interesting about the dyes. I'm struggling with elimination diets to figure out a possible food allergy (or allergies) and it is driving me crazy.

    However, my itchy skin improved when a dermatologist suggested avoiding the big four: aspirin, ibuprofen, MSG and yellow dye #5.

    I was aware that dyes bind to proteins. But I had no idea that NSAIDS bind to proteins in the skin and can cause photo-sensitive itchy rashes for up to 6 months after ingestion.

    I wonder if ADHD is related to distractions such as itchy skin or stomach upset. I am an adult and find them highly distracting. ;-)

    RE the dye issue. Perhaps a warning label saying that it may cause ADHD in susceptible people is all that it will take. The marketplace will respond much more quickly than a government ban and endless litigation.

  2. @badmomgoodmom - good luck with the elimination diets, I was doing that a while back and it gets so frustrating. I finally just wound up writing down everything I ate, with the time and date, and noting every reaction and then working my way backwards, trying to identify the possible culprits for every reaction...took months.

    The ability of dyes to bind proteins and extend the lifespan is fascinating. Makes me think of Alzheimer's pathology - people aren't entirely sure if the amyloid buildup is the root of the problem or the body attempting to repair damage and accidentally causing extra problems.

  3. @badmomgoodmom, I wonder what protein in the skin NSAIDS are interacting with? Or if it is just a side effect of their (therapeutic) interaction with cyclooxygenase? Interesting.

    In general, small molecule drugs (i.e., anything you take orally) interact with proteins- it is just a question of how much they interact with proteins other than the one they are intended to target.

    @Today Wendy- they even tried a blue dye as a treatment for Alzheimer's at one point. I don't think it got far, maybe because it had trouble getting across the blood-brain barrier.

  4. The "news" about the dyes made me look like an oracle in DH's eyes. For years I have been telling him never to eat those red maraschino cherries (based BTW on no scientific evidence whatsoever, just a gut feeling I have), and my anti-maraschinos stance came up again last week, and DH was busting my chops about it, then he saw the "red dye scare" stuff and said he decided he would listen to his wife more! ;)


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