Must a remedy for “the largest epidemic in human history” be very profitable to be of interest to the healthcare industry?
The epidemic I refer to is diabetes, which in combination with obesity, is sweeping the world. And here in Santa Fe, I have become friends with a gentleman who turned 91 this year, Moshe Shifrine, PhD, who may have discovered a way to mitigate the crisis. The challenge is to interest an entity with the necessary resources to fully research this possibility. The problem is that the possibility may be too simple.
THE LONG JOURNEY
I must preface everything that follows with the confession that I do not have an aptitude in science. I just find a good story fascinating and admire a passion for discovery and the desire to serve, and Moshe has both. I met him six years ago when I read in the newspaper a story about his research on the black truffle and discovered that we had a mutual friend who proceeded to arrange an introduction. Since then, and as a volunteer, I have periodically helped Moshe write up his research. I also wrote a blog about him.
As I said, Moshe is 91, and although his inquiry is as intense as ever, he is aware of running out of time–just as he has reached the definitive moment in his studies. After retiring as a professor of microbiology from the University of California at Davis back in 1989, Moshe launched an experiment on growing hydroponically the black truffle “the quintessential gourmet mushroom of France.” That launch led to this critical juncture.
Moshe succeeded in growing the black truffle but in sheet form that had no culinary appeal. As many readers probably know, pigs, which are more physiologically similar to humans than any other creature, are used to find wild truffles because they are drawn to their “rotten egg” odor underground. Moshe thought there might be a market for truffle powder among pig farmers wanting to fatten them up. What he discovered was that they quickly grew heavy with muscle, not fat.
Moshe had the truffle compound chemically tested and discovered that it contained minute amounts of testosterone, which was confirmed by further testing. Whether this is true of all black truffles or whether he inadvertently created a mutant truffle containing testosterone has not been determined.
However, Moshe made an imaginative leap based on the connection of pig physiology with human and the way pigs could scent the truffle underground, then grew muscle when they smelled the truffle powder in their food. With further research, he determined that by smelling a testosterone extract from the black truffle in a process called “olfaction,” men could raise their testosterone levels. He secured a patent (8,679,507) on the basis of these findings.
It was at this point that I posted my blog on Moshe, also promoting the site where one could purchase the product. It was a little spritz bottle containing a truffle extract to spray on the wrist and smell. Women also have a certain level of testosterone, and increasing levels can be helpful on many fronts for both male and female. I subscribed for a while to support Moshe but didn’t have any health issues that I was aware of. I think my eyelashes grew, but after a while, I let it go.
THE MOST RECENT DISCOVERY
As I said, however, I stayed engaged, and now there is a new development, the most exciting of all. In blood tests on male volunteers, Moshe discovered that testosterone olfaction instantly reduced blood sugar levels. This is extremely important for diabetics who either produce no insulin (type 1) or cannot use what they produce (type 2). Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, turns glucose (sugar) into energy in cells throughout the body. If absent or present in insufficient amounts, cells are starved for energy. Complications, including diabetes, are numerous, and can result in death.
On observing that testosterone olfaction instantly reduced blood sugar levels, Moshe surmised that, olfaction might send a message to the human brain (the hypothalamus) to produce insulin. It might also be possible that, functioning like a “warrior” hormone, testosterone may vanquish any interference with the insulin receptors in the nose that send messages to the brain. So that’s where Moshe is in the moment. He has won another patent (10,413,556) based on legal advice to claim that testosterone olfaction produces insulin. Things are moving very fast as Moshe runs for home plate, and what he knows is that testosterone olfaction reduces sugar levels in the blood of men. It must now be left to an entity with the resources to fully research this possible way to mitigate the likelihood of a worldwide tragedy in an internationally rising tide of diabetes.
So here are the statistics:
- The Center for Disease Control reports that more than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes.
- The World Health Organization estimates that over 400 million individuals worldwide suffer with diabetes (type 1 or type 2).
- At current rates of growth, half of us may be diabetic in 20 years.
- At the current rate of growth, in 20 years, the world population of diabetics will be a little over one billion people.
And the problem in terms of the cost of healthcare for diabetes in the US is astronomical. According to the American Diabetes Association, “People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of $16, 752 per year, of which $9,601 is attributed to diabetes. On average, people with diagnosed diabetes have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
As I said earlier, I’m not a scientist nor am I an economist. However, the worldwide epidemic of diabetes is so closely associated with obesity that the term “diabesity” has been coined by an Australian professor, Paul Z. Zimmet, who has studied diabetes for over 40 years. (He is the one who has termed diabetes potentially “the largest epidemic in human history.”) It seems that this epidemic is something worth addressing on every front.
It is clearly a result in part of “progress” in that we have such easy access to all the sugar and starch that is a factor in the spread of diabesity. And as you can see from the statistics above, diabesity is very expensive, which means that there are many entities making money from its spread. At the same time, conventional treatment depends on the manufacture of insulin, which is complicated and may not keep up with the demand. Raising prices is a way to temper demand.
So you see where I’m going. In closing, it seems that the discovery by Moshe Shifrine that testosterone olfaction instantly reduces blood sugar levels in men is well worth exploring. The pharmaceutical companies he has approached have claimed that it would take about $100 million to fully research its effectiveness and win FDA approval. And then we know that the question arises, “How much could we charge for a spritzer bottle with just a few molecules of testosterone that could trigger the body’s defense?”
And then, ironically, we must take a look at one observation in a paper by Professor Zimmet mentioned above. To repeat, progress, as we understand it, has encouraged a turn toward unhealthy foods and lifestyles often associated with the development of diabetes. Professor Zimmet notes in one paragraph that during an economic crisis in Cuba, “there was a decrease in obesity and a decrease in diabetes incidence and deaths from diabetes.” His conclusion really caught my eye: “So there’s some evidence that economic hardship may be the best way to prevent diabetes.”
Surely we don’t have to go that route.
And to repeat, I’m not a scientist or an economist, but I think Moshe Shifrine’s discovery should be explored. And to further intrigue any daring mind, I called and checked on something. He has about one ton (= 1,000 kg = 1,000,000 grams =1,000,000,000 mg) of black truffle powder in storage. If you’re interested in working with with him in regard to this issue, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.