Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it

You know when you plan to do something, and then you notice something so shocking or awful you can’t help but forget what you were doing, and concentrate all your efforts on this new thing?

I was trying to write something useful about cramp and drinking, but that was put on hold as soon as I saw this; apparently a causative link between “GMO insulin” and double diabetes. At first some chump on Twitter was asking people to “please share” (you know that mark of reliability that scientists use…) information from GMO Free USA. So I found the offending tweet, looking for clarification, but the link had already been deleted. I assume due to the overwhelming pressure of big pHARMa, or more likely because it’s absolute nonsense.

After a quick google search I managed to find some more information from the fountain of knowledge that is Green Med Info, with the promising headline “GMO Insulin Causes Type 1 Diabetes in Type 2 Diabetics, Study Finds”.

“So is it pretend?” I hear you ask. I don’t know to write in words how unbelievably made up it is. I’ll try my best though; there is as much evidence that chewing bricks causes type 1 diabetes in type 2 diabetics. It’s so upsetting I’ve had to divide this into three parts; Double Diabetes, Nonsense and Lies.


Double Diabetes

So, unfortunately as scary as it sounds, double diabetes is totally a thing, and people can suffer from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

For those of you a tad unsure of your types, I’ll briefly explain it. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, where the body destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This is largely genetic, and can be treated by replacing the insulin. Type 2 arises from insulin resistance, where your body stops responding to insulin.This is mostly associated with obesity, and common medication is to increase insulin sensitivity, through exercise or medication.

Double diabetes occurs when people suffering from type 1 diabetes become insulin resistant. Increased levels of insulin can cause insulin resistance, so it’s not entirely unreasonable to assume that some type 1 diabetics may induce insulin resistance. That’s why it is important for type 1 diabetes to routinely measure blood sugar levels.

Also, exercise. You won’t believe how important it is to exercise if you have insulin resistance.



However, this nonsense article talks about those suffering from type 2 diabetes developing type 1, using a fairly poor study. Apparently, 6 type 2 diabetics were treated with insulin, and they developed type 1 diabetes. Well, levels of C-peptide went down, they didn’t measure insulin levels or secretion. Auto-antibodies were increased in half of the patients, but definitely not all. One began suffering from insulinitis.  Also, all of the patients were genetically predisposed to type 1 diabetes. So you could possibly say that insulin treatment prevents type 1 diabetes, as 50% of patients did not express any markers. In conclusion, with a sample size of 6, questionable results and conclusions it’s not the best study to really use as evidence for anything.

I think a little bit more background info is needed. One of the major roles of insulin is to increase glucose uptake in muscle and fat. If these tissues are insulin resistant then they can’t do this, and the levels of glucose in the blood continue to remain high. In response to this, the pancreas makes and releases more insulin to compensate. However, it cannot do this indefinitely, and after a prolonged period the pancreatic cells will begin to die. It is possible that these people then require insulin treatment in a similar way to type 1 diabetics.

But this is not double diabetes, and it is important to recognise the difference. The pancreas of type 1 diabetics cannot be rescued, but proper management of type 2 diabetes can prevent pancreatic cell death.

You may also notice how I didn’t mention GMOs or recombinant insulin at all, as neither does this study.

Recently it has been suggested that treatment with insulin alone can have negative effects, and can lead to increased rates of myocardial infarction, stroke, various neuropathies, cancer and even death. It is also worth pointing out that treatment with insulin and an insulin sensitizing compound such as metformin or sulphonylureas doesn’t show similar results. Something the review concedes, and furthermore the validity of the studies used has also been questioned.

It shouldn’t be necessary, but it’s important to state that being unable to control blood glucose and/or insulin levels are/is dangerous. Being unable to properly control them can lead to increased rates of myocardial infarction, stroke, various neuropathies, cancer and even death. Recognise the list?



“So why does this happen?” you probably didn’t ask as this blog has gotten really long, and you’ve gotten bored already. The truth is no-one knows; well not entirely. There’s bit and pieces of evidence, but a lot more research is needed. (That’s where I come in, so funding please!) One thing that has never been shown to cause it is recombinant insulin.

However, this doesn’t stop Green Med Info from blaming it on the recombinant insulin. Without any evidence. They claim that because insulin glargine, a long acting insulin analog, has been modified it must be bad. (These modifications are to shift the isoelectric point to a more neutral pH, meaning that insulin glargine is more soluble in an acidic pH. This is important for use, as it slows absorption in the body allowing for long lasting insulin action.)

So, yeah, baseless, wrong, stupid and dangerous. Recombinant insulin is fine. There is exactly as much evidence in my statement that shark attacks prevent double diabetes.


Today’s quote is from Jonathan Swift


Locals, locals, all standing still

So, I’ve been in America for a year now, and I’m celebrating by making figures and drinking whiskey. I’ve pretty much finished a paper from my PhD work (save the proof-reading…) so that’s nice. I just need to finish my figures, and get it to my old supervisor so she can add her data, and hopefully get it off somewhere as soon as possible.

It’s made me realise the difference between the first year of my PhD and the first year of my postdoc. Obviously I’m better at science now, but I feel like I’ve done quite a lot of work this year. Admittedly I could have done more, but not much more. I’m beholden to the number of biopsies we can carry out, and they’ve been fairly infrequent. Regardless I think I’ve covered more ground here. I’ve learnt new assays, and how to manage primary cells and a couple of new cell lines, as well as being able to get to my feet on a surfboard. Western blots are still annoying though.

Luckily there’s a good measure of my progress; submitting abstracts. Not for anything particularly interesting, but still a chance to show off my work. Towards the end of the first year of my PhD I helped organise the Young Physiologist’s Symposium at Manchester, and we were short of abstracts. But, I couldn’t do anything about it. Unless people we interested in learning that insulin increases glucose uptake (In my hands most of the time anyway…); something even Wikipedia doesn’t think requires a reference.

Now it’s time for the UCSD Postdoc Research symposium, and I have so much data I can’t put it here in case someone gazumps our science before publication. Just need a couple more experiments and I’m going to get a pretty good abstract in. I know it’s unlikely but I’m almost certain I deserve an oral presentation. Especially considering the standard of the talks I’ve seen since moving out here. Seriously, for an accent that sounds like you’re sooo interested in everything, you could at least muster some enthusiasm California.

And I’m almost certain my year here has benefited diabetes more than my three in Manchester. Turns out PIP2 isn’t that useful hey?

It is. It totally, totally is.


Today’s quote is by Meet Me In St. Louis (probably Toby Hayes)

All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others

I’ve always had a stance on Facebook, and I guess real life, that if you say, re-post or basically draw attention to, your own racist, homophobic or sexist views, you got un-friended. But recently, I found myself unsure about what to do with friends who didn’t believe in vaccinations.

At first I thought I’d try and correct them. When they make spurious claims about vaccines causing autism, I would direct them to papers showing that they did not. (I know I’ve only attached one paper, but seeing as it’s the most recent, and the largest I figure it’s a good place to start.) Then they would bombard me with stories about their friend who is a teacher who totally knows that there is more autistic kids because they teach them and the vaccinated kids get all of the diseases because vaccines don’t work.

At which point, I’d originally bow out, knowing that they were unlikely to change their mind, as they ignored science for stories.

And when I looked up #cdcvax on Twitter, my brain just went in to meltdown. I spent the first few minutes in shocked disbelief. And then I got angry. Like really angry. Like ashamed of myself angry. How can people be so stupid? I didn’t allow myself to reply to anything until I’d calmed down as I knew it would be unhelpful, so I went and got a cup of tea.

Then I came back, and asked for evidence that their claims were true. Obviously I got linked to Ginger Taylor’s page of lies, but most didn’t bother replying to me. So, that’s a victory right? One person agreed with me that vaccines don’t cause autism, but the aluminium in them did caused mitochondrial defects, which in turn causes autism, and provided some papers. Now part of my research involves mitochondria, and I’d never heard of them causing autism. Similarly neither had the CDC.

One of which showed that aluminium can damage cells.

In the millimolar range.

Now, I don’t know how much aluminium is in vaccines, but luckily this person included a reference saying 1-8μg. (If you bothered reading that paper you’ll also see how much more aluminium there is in food, cigarettes and basically air.) So, assuming the maximum dose, and the molecular weight of aluminium to be 26.98 to reach a concentration of 10mM you would need 30μL of blood. That’s making some fairly wild (and wrong) assumptions about absorption, and the circulatory system. And apparently babies have 2 litres of blood, so would need 67450 vaccinations worth. Again, with some terrible assumptions.

So I shot them down; I used my logic to win. Although I received nothing in reply, and looking back I never should have expected anything. I had wasted far too much of my time and energy, and now I’ve wasted yours. They don’t understand that dose makes the poison, and I’ve already pointed out that they are unlikely to change their mind, despite evidence proving them wrong. Including ignoring that second reference stating “Al[uminium] may be eliminated effectively via the kidney”, and if your child has kidney problems then you have a bigger issue to deal with than whether or not you’re stupid enough to believe vaccines cause autism.

Which reminds me, if you’re asking yourself what any of this has to do with autism, then congratulations you’re more with it than I was. It was a while later I realised that I had been arguing about literally nothing. I really need to get better at this, and pay more attention to people that are good at this stuff. From now on I should learn to pick my battles, and make sure they aren’t with anonymous strangers on the internet.

Also, delete those idiots. Just like trolls, they’ll die away without attention. Or vaccinations…


Today’s quote is from Douglas Adams.

Every job, relationship, home…it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.

Turns out I didn’t get my Fellowship, meaning I’m almost definitely not going to be in San Diego for another year. It also means I need to start applying for different jobs and/or fellowships back in England. It also means I might need to broaden my horizons with respect to job prospects. So, in an attempt to legitimise my writing, I figured I’d start taking it seriously.

And that’s where this new blog comes in, without any of the f***ing swearing and jokes about masturbating in the library.

To be honest it’s not surprising I didn’t get the Fellowship. I’m a first year postdoc with no first author papers, and no grant writing experience, beginning a new project using other people’s data as preliminary work. The most annoying thing is the lack of feedback, so I’ve no idea how comparable my grant writing skills.

Actually the most annoying thing is being called Dr Alexander. If you’ve read my proposal, including references about how awesome “Alex” is, and addressed an email to ajryan I feel like you should at least know my name! I mean I love correcting people when they call me “Mr Ryan”, but I feel like pointing out the difference between surnames and given names is far below my remit.

Last week I read this on the Science website, summing up this article in Cell. Basically, van Dijk et al. have scoured Pubmed, collected data on authorship, H-index and citations, as well as the highest impact factor for individuals and their most recent university. Then they compared these values to the those with a PIship.

(That word looks wrong. The hell is a piss ship?! And I said I wasn’t going to swear!)

They found out that the only thing that really matters is first author papers, and having a penis. Having an article in a journal with a high impact factor helps, and the current university matters as long as it’s in the top 10. But mostly it’s the penis thing. It sucks, right?

Then they used complicated maths to work out your likelihood of becoming a PI, and if you scroll to the bottom of that first link (here it is again if you can’t be bothered scrolling up) you can see your likelihood of getting your own lab. Luckily I fall into the “I am better at science because of my genitalia” group, with a massive 17% likelihood of becoming a PI (compared to 7% if I was a woman). That’s without any first author papers, and as long as I can get a PI job straight from leaving the 14th best university in the world.

So I really need to get on the first author papers; preferably in Nature or Science…

Unfortunately my two papers have a female first, and as we all know women get cited less than men. (I read an article advocating the use of initials instead of actual names, which I can fully get behind and plan to do with any further publications, but I can’t find it now, so sorry for the lack of link and here is a similar one. Thanks Day!) But luckily a general H-index doesn’t seem to affect it too much, especially compared to first author paper citations.

So again I need to get on the first author papers.

An old model gave me a much better chance of 42% (compared to 30% as a woman), so I just need to make a time machine and head back unti…well, actually I’ll probably be able to get a physics lab if I build a time machine. Or I’ll just go back and help Rosalind Franklin get her Nobel Prize. Although obviously it’d be called the Ryan Prize.


Today’s quote is from Chuck Palahniuk.