I was pleasantly surprised to see the Orinda Country Club and American Chemical Society were hosting a seminar about an important scientific research topic, "Finding the Key to Cures for ALS, Parkinson, and Alzheimer's Diseases." I was excited that a scientist was coming to speak with my neighbors on a subject that desperately needs more public attention.
However, I left horribly disappointed.
The speaker, Dr. Paul Allan Cox, claims a neurotoxin produced by waterborne bacteria causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This claim has no published scientific support; in fact, studies have shown quite the opposite. He spoke at length about how this toxin causes nerve damage and claimed consuming more dietary Serine could offset it. Serine is a naturally occurring amino acid that not only is present in most (if not all) of the protein we consume daily but can also be synthesized by every single cell in your body.
There are ample published data to refute Dr. Cox's claims. Why would Dr. Cox mislead the public about how this neurotoxin harms brain cells -- so that he can promote a so-called "clinical trial?"
Dr. Cox touted the speed at which the FDA approved his own trial, which must mean his evidence for potential success to be overwhelming. The truth is that he is not testing a new drug -- he is testing a commercially available dietary supplement.
What offends me most about Dr. Cox's seminar was not his solicitation for donations; he was telling my neighbors -- most clearly over 60 -- that simply taking this supplement would likely prevent crippling neurodegenerative diseases. This action is dangerous, and frankly, unethical.
I am completely appalled that the American Chemical Society would sponsor such an event. Shame on you, especially to the ACS president Marinda Wu, who was in attendance.
Osterloh, a Berkeley resident, is a postdoctoral scholar with the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease at UC-San Francisco.