But when you turn over 90% of a story to a researcher who is a co-founder of and consultant for a company working on a drug and then quote the CEO of that company as well, it’s no surprise that you get a rosy projection.
If you care about this stuff, a far better piece of reporting was done by Nature News, “Row over resveratrol rumbles on.“
Just a little more than a year ago, when the company halted its resveratrol trial, the NY Times quoted a researcher at the National Institute on Aging:
“Resveratrol is a complex molecule in that it has many targets, and it behaves differently depending on the tissue and the metabolic status of the organism,” Dr. de Cabo said. That may make it too complex for a pharmaceutical company, which must prove to the Food and Drug Administration that a new drug works by a defined mechanism on a specific target. But resveratrol remains of great interest to researchers. “What is the actual use for humans still needs to be discovered,” he said.
We’re still a long way and many glasses of red wine away from answering these questions.
Not applicable. It’s understandable that costs were not discussed at this early animal-model stage of research.
If an entire consumer-targeted story is going to be based on research into mitochondrial function in mice, it could at least discuss how much such function improved. A little? A lot? In a few mice? All mice? How many mice? This story whiffed on giving any sense of the scope of the finding.
There was no discussion of potential harms, nor of the concern for potential harms in the leap from mice to humans, nor of how long and widely a substance would need to be tested in people before its safety could be projected.
We’ll give this a qualified satisfactory score, largely because of the ending quote from an independent expert, who said:
“A mouse model is not a human being, especially when you are genetically manipulating this animal model, you want to be very careful,” Marambaud said. “This field has been extremely controversial. We should be very careful about claiming the importance of resveratrol for medical purposes.”
But the headline – as often happens – belies any caveat in the body of the story, blaring how this finding “might help you live longer.”
Not applicable. Unless we’re talking about aging in mice.
Yes, the story turned to an independent expert at the end.
And, yes, it noted the conflicts of interest for the senior study author.
But it seemed to go out of its way to include a quote from the CEO of the drug company developing reseveratrol-like molecules – quoting him from an email he sent the journal that published the work. And it never explained WHY the company halted clinical trials of resveratrol in 2010. Before letting the CEO make new claims (“first definitive evidence”) about a new approach, it might have been helpful to review for readers why another approach was abandoned.
We think that’s only half a loaf, and give it an unsatisfactory score for that reason.
The story could have included even a line about other research in the prevention of cell aging.
The preliminary nature of these findings was clear in the body of the story (although not in the headline).
The story did mention some previous research on the issue:
“While previous studies have also suggested that resveratrol may have anti-aging properties, the precise mechanism of resveratrol has been controversial. Several studies, including work with yeast, worms and flies, have found that resveratrol acts on a class of seven genes known as sirtuins and, in human cells, SIRT1 in particular.”
There’s no evidence that the story relied solely on a news release.