Researcher Accused of Fraud

Heart Benefits of Red Wine Called Into Question
A University of Connecticut researcher who studied the link between aging and a substance found in red wine has committed more than 100 acts of data fabrication and falsification, throwing much of his work into doubt.
Dipak K. Das, who directed the university’s Cardiovascular Research Center, studied resveratrol, touted by a number of scientists and companies as a way to slow aging or remain healthy as people get older. Among his findings, according to a work promoted by the University of Connecticut in 2007, was that “the pulp of grapes is as heart-healthy as the skin, even though the antioxidant properties differ.” The university said an anonymous tip led to an investigation that began in 2008. A 60,000-page report resulted, outlining 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data. Other members of Das’ laboratory may have been involved, and are being investigated, the report continues. UConn has “declined to accept $890,000 in federal grants awarded to” Das, according to the statement, and has begun dismissal proceedings. The university has alerted 11 journals that published Das’ work, and has also worked on the case with the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, which investigates alleged misconduct by federal grant recipients. The journals include Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, where Das was one of the editors in chief, and the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Although many scientists have been skeptical of various claims made about resveratrol, it has garnered significant commercial interest. GlaxoSmithKline bought Sirtris, a company that worked on the compound in 2008 for $720 million, but later discontinued work on one version of a drug that mimics its activity because of disappointing results. A Las Vegas resveratrol maker called Longevinex has promoted Das’ research, and he appears in a lengthy video touting the nutrient as the next aspirin. Former University of Connecticut researcher Dipak K. Das poses with grapes and wine glasses at the Other scientists have taken notice UConn Health Center in Farmington, Connecticut. of Das’ work, citing 30 of his papers more than 100 times each, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Last year, he won an award from the International Association of Cardiologists. Das, who could not be reached for comment, said in a 2010 letter to university officials that the investigation was a “conspiracy” against him. The work was “repeated by many scientists all over the world,” he wrote. “As you know, because of the development of tremendous amount of stress in my work environment in recent months, I became a victim of stroke for which I am undergoing treatment,” he wrote in a separate letter.
(With reporting by Adam Marcus)

What Is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol a compound found largely in the skins of red grapes and is used in oriental medicine to treat diseases of the blood vessels, heart, and liver. Reseratrol came to scientific attention several years ago as a possible explanation for the “French Paradox”—the low incidence of heart disease among the French people, who eat a relatively high-fat diet. The substance is widely available as a nutraceutical supplement and being examined by scientific researchers as a possible antioxidant, an anti-cancer agent, and a phytoestrogen. Resveratrol (trans-resveratrol) is a phytoalexin produced naturally by several plants when under attack by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi. Resveratrol has also been produced by chemical synthesis and is sold as a nutritional supplement derived primarily from Polygonum Caspidatum Root. Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes and is a constituent of red wine, but apparently not in sufficient amounts to explain the French paradox. Experiments have shown that resveratrol treatment extended the life of fruit flies, nematode worms and fish with short life spans but it did not increase the life span of mice. In mouse and rat experiments, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, blood-sugar-lowering and other beneficial cardiovascular effects of resveratrol have been reported. Most of these results have yet to be replicated in humans. In the only positive human trial, extremely high doses (3~5 g) of resveratrol in a proprietary formulation have been necessary to significantly lower blood sugar.

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