DNA magic

November 13th, 2003 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, cosmetics, dna, very basic science | 5 Comments »

DNA magic

Ben Goldacre
Thursday November 13, 2003
The Guardian

Talk bad science

· I was delighted to read in the journal Science that researchers from Stanford University in California have successfully created a form of “super DNA” that is larger than normal DNA and easier to study. Unfortunately for them, this isn’t the first time that DNA with amazing properties has been documented.

· Geneticist Dr Ed Hollox of Nottingham University draws my attention to the cosmetics company Valmont, who will sell you a concoction called Cellular DNA Complex, made from “specially treated salmon roe DNA”, at the bargain price of £236 for seven phials. According to the Sunday Times’ style supplement, it “enhances the cosmetic properties (moisturising, regenerating and protecting) of DNA”. “Sadly,” their correspondent continues, “smearing salmon on your face doesn’t have the same effect.” I guess we have to take their word for that, although Dr Hollox, who knows a bit about DNA, doubts whether the specially treated salmon roe DNA stuff would have much effect, either.

· And there was more unusual DNA in Die Another Day, when James Bond came up against a Korean baddy who turned himself into an English gentleman criminal using DNA. As his evil doctor explained: “First we kill off your bone marrow, wipe the DNA slate clean.” Not that we need to worry about the DNA in every other cell in your body. But what happens in phase two? “The introduction of new DNA harvested from healthy donors, orphans, runaways, people that won’t be missed.” Surely a Hollywood scriptwriter should know that one mouth swab from one child would give the doctor all the DNA he could possibly need to carry out his evil plans?

· But the real action is with Kryon, a “supreme being” spiritually and lucratively “channelled” into book form by a human being called Lee Carroll. Kyron informs us that DNA actually contains 12 strands – not two – thanks to which “every single human being has the potential for all knowledge”. Just to keep you worrying, he’s sold more than half a million books, and apparently all this wisdom “resides in the crystalline 12-segmented structure that wraps itself around the encoding [DNA]”, which, er, you can’t actually see. If you’re interested, a woman called Marlana at www.marlana.org will activate your 10 extra strands of DNA remotely, over email, for just $39.

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