Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Do YOU want to add 20 years to your life? Of course you do!

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on July 10, 2009

And, obviously, of course you can’t through a pill, no matter what the Daily Express wants you to believe.

A WONDER pill could extend the lifespan of people by up to 23 years.

I’m intrigued!

The “elixir of life” anti-ageing drug was made from a compound found in the soil on Easter Island – one of the most remote places on Earth – which is created by a microbe living in the soil.

Going good so far. Of course you need “one of  the most remote places on Earth”. That implies it is untempered with, which implies it is natural. We all know how freaking great natural stuff is, no? And having a place called Easter does not hurt either. It adds a religious layer to this whole thing. Good marketing!

It is hoped that the findings could lead to the creation of drugs that dramatically slow down ageing, allowing people to be healthier for longer.

Hoped? HOPED? I thought we had a WONDER drug on our hands, what’s hope got to do with anything?

The Easter Island compound – called rapamycin after the island’s Polynesian name Rapa Nui – was found to extend expected lifespan by 38 per cent when tested on mice.

Oh that’s why, it’s only been tested in mice so far (and we dont’ even know the details of that research, but we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for the time being)! I guess that’s wonderful news for rodents.

Dr Arlan Richardson, director of the Barshop Institute, said: “I’ve been in ageing research for 35 years and there have been many so-called ‘anti-ageing’ interventions over those years that were never successful. I never thought we would find an anti-ageing pill for people in my lifetime. Rapamycin shows a great deal of promise to do just that.”

Ah, news flash Dr. Richardons, all the failed anti-ageing interventions showed great promise in the initial stages of research. I would advise at least a pilot study on humans before you start touting what a great deal of promise rapamycin offers. Come on a bit of skepticism, doctor! Maybe you should take a cue from your colleagues at Oxford.

Dr Lynne Cox, researcher in ageing at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, said: “This is a very exciting study where a single drug with a known cellular effect increases the life expectancy and lifespan of mice.

“In no way should anyone consider using this particular drug to try to extend their own lifespan as rapamycin suppresses immunity. While the lab mice were protected from infection, that’s simply impossible in humans.

That’s right folks. Of course the study is exciting but check your horses before you start patenting this stuff.

So where do we, as skeptics, stand with regards to this particular drug? We should find the results of the study interesting and exciting. If the study was conducted properly and it had the effects it says, and it can be fairly reasonably replicated this could be very interesting. But being interested by a possibility is vastly different from a headline that proclaims that “NEW PILL CAN ADD 20 YEARS TO LIFE” or having a first sentence in your article that says “A WONDER pill could extend the lifespan of people by up to 23 years.”. Not it can’t! No it couldn’t! Not yet we cannot make such statements.

I wonder: do headline writers even read the article they’re writing the headline for?

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