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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« Voluntary. . .For Now | Main | Bad News at a Bad Hour of the Night »

October 3, 2002

Am I Blue?

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Posted by Derek

Most of you have probably seen this link by now, but for those who haven't, here's Montana's blue Senate candidate. The picture would seem to do a reasonable job of rendering his color, but I suspect that he's more gray than blue. Still, no doubt the effect is quite striking in person.

Colloidal silver (very fine particles of the metal suspended in water) is to blame. Actually, let me rephrase that: this guy is to blame, because he drank hefty amounts of the stuff for an extended period. The silver just did what silver does; you can't blame an element for acting the way it has to act.

And why, one asks, did this man do all these silver shots? Well, if you go to Google and run the phrase "colloidal silver" through it, you'll be assaulted with come-ons for so much of the stuff that you could start your own currency. It's been around for a long time (turn of the century, at least) and was a common ingredient in nose drops up until the 1950s or so. Here's a rundown on it from Quackwatch.

While it does have antibiotic properties, it's not effective enough (and its side effects are too great) to be of much use. The only modern application of it that I know of is in some kinds of burn salves, where it's at least applied topically.

Unfortunately, it's not a metal that the body handles very well. Silver doesn't have any known endogenous use, and there aren't any clearance mechanisms for it. So it just tends to pile up, which is the general problem with ingested metals. And, for reasons that aren't well understood, many people end up depositing fine particles of the metal in their skin, eyes, fingernails, and so on. It wouldn't surprise me if the metal were present in a number of internal organs, too (I'd start with the liver.) The condition's called argyria, from the Latin.

It's there to stay, too. There is absolutely no way to get it out. Here's an unfortunate woman who was given the nose drops for a period in the 1950s and ended up with argyria for the rest of her life. She's in a rather testy mood about all the latter-day silver promoters, and who can blame her? I'll link to a particularly clueless (and poorly written) example to give you the flavor of the field.

Our metallized Montanan made the stuff at home with a similar kit (probably generously laced with silver salts, depending on what kind of water he used,) because he feared antibiotic shortages after Y2K. And the hucksters told him, you know, that if he took this wonderful silver that he wouldn't have to worry about that sort of thing. How was he to know?

By using his brain, perhaps? By doing a half-hour's research on the web or in any good library? Apparently not. Actually, I shouldn't be making fun of his Senate candidacy. Come to think of it, he'd fit right in.

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