Monday, 23 April 2012

07:38 – Back to heads-down work on the forensics book.

10:02 – Wow. The government’s bogus inflation numbers continue to surprise me. I originally wrote the text for this forensics book back in late 2008 and early 2009. I was just updating one of the lab sessions on soil analysis. It uses the Project Star Spectrometer, which was widely available for $25 or so back in 2009. (I know; I bought one and I still have the receipt.) Three years later, it’s still widely available, but now it sells for $37 to $45. That’s 50% to 80% inflation in only three years, or an annual inflation rate of roughly 14% to 22%.

13:25 – Derek Lowe has an interesting post up about self-medication: Making Their Own ALS Drug. As Bob Dylan wrote in his best track and probably the best rock-and-roll track ever, “When you got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose”. And these ALS patients definitely got nuthin’.

What was particularly interesting to me is that Derek, a pharmaceutical chemist, states publicly something that few scientists would admit to: that if he were diagnosed with such a disease, he’d go the Hail Mary route and happily start taking this stuff. And, although few scientists would admit something like this publicly, it’s something that nearly all would do privately. In short, some evidence, no matter how scanty, is sufficient to take desperate action rather than doing nothing. When you know what the certain outcome is, even a one in a million shot is better than nothing. And many of these proto-drugs have sufficient evidence suggesting possibly beneficial effects that taking them on spec is considerably better than a one-in-a-million shot.

When the Cancer Cell article about dichloroacetic acid came out, I immediately downloaded and read the full paper. My reaction then was, “this might not work in humans, but then again it very well might.” So, that very day, I ordered 250 mL of reagent-grade dichloroacetic acid from Fisher Scientific and put it on the shelf. I forwarded a link to the paper to Paul Jones, and in a follow-up conversation I mentioned with some hesitation that I’d ordered the DCA. Frankly, I was afraid he’d think I was ridiculous for giving in to woo, but his reaction was the same as mine: it might not work, but then again what’s to lose?

Paul and Mary are both organic chemists. Barbara is not a chemist, but she trusts the three of us. If the worst happened to any of us and traditional treatments held out no possibility of a cure, I think it’s very likely that we’d have a little get-together around the lab bench. We’d make up a big batch of sodium or potassium dichloroacetate and purify the shit out of it by repeated recrystallization, preparatory column chromatography, or whatever. So, yeah, I can understand why these ALS patients are willing to swallow a sodium chlorite solution and cross their fingers. When you got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose. And the damned FDA and the rest of the government should just look the other way.