Rao Yi bombarded Yin Ye, CEO of BGI, is probiotics a big scam?

Recently, biologist Rao Yi publicly pointed out that the popular science video of Yin Ye, CEO of BGI, contains errors. Today, he published an article saying that the "probiotics" sold by Yin Ye are fake drugs. "All the probiotics currently promoted in China are all fake drugs." .

The next question is, what kind of mistakes have occurred in Yin Ye's popular science video? Are "probiotics" fake drugs?

Mechanism unknown, gut microbiota

There is an old saying in China: in case of indecision, quantum mechanics. Mechanism unknown, gut microbiota.

The research difficulty of intestinal flora is no lower than that of quantum mechanics.

In Yin Ye's video, it is mentioned that early intervention can delay or prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, and the intervention method is to interfere with the intestinal flora. This statement is quite misleading.

Alzheimer's disease (AD), also known as Alzheimer's disease, is a neurodegenerative disease. Clinically, memory impairment is the most common, which is characterized by the comprehensive decline of the patient's cognitive, behavioral, language and other brain function activities. The patient is prone to various complications in the middle and late stages, and requires long-term comprehensive care.

First discovered in 1906, there has been little progress in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. So far, the US FDA has only approved 6 therapeutic drugs, namely tacrine in 1993, donepezil in 1996, rivastigmine in 2000, galantamine in 2001, memantine hydrochloride in 2003, and memantine/donepezil in 2014. compound.

The pathogenesis and mechanism of Alzheimer's disease are still unclear, and drug development is based on various hypotheses, including brain β-amyloid (Aβ) deposition, neurofibrillary tangles, neuroinflammation, and traumatic brain injury. At the beginning of last year, the drug Aducanumab applied for listing is a monoclonal antibody drug developed based on the β-amyloid hypothesis.

Moreover, these drugs do not completely cure the condition. Therapies based on the beta-amyloid hypothesis, although successful in reducing Aβ levels or eliminating beta-amyloid deposits in the brain, did not help patients with cognitive decline.

Brain beta-amyloid, the gut microbiota, is indeed linked to Alzheimer's disease. "Associated" means that Alzheimer's disease is affected by these factors, but does not mean that intervening in these factors will treat the disease. A disease may be affected by hundreds of factors, and it is of little significance to intervene in one or two factors.

The human gut contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, and the complexity of the gut flora is extremely difficult to cover by existing research.

The American biologist Jeffey I. Gordon mentioned by Rao Yi in the article has made significant contributions to the scientific research of intestinal flora and has more than 20 patents. His research suggests that gut microbiota may contribute to obesity, and proves that chronic malnutrition in children depends not only on diet, but also on the makeup of healthy microbiota.

For a rigorous study, the more limited conditions it has, the narrower the range of conclusions it can draw, and it is difficult to have “universality” on a large scale.

So far, no research has proved that eating some "probiotics" can form a "suitable" intestinal flora. It is even more impossible to create a gut flora that delays Alzheimer's disease.

Interfering with the gut microbiota, the only treatment with scientific evidence at present, is probably used to inhibit severe diarrhea caused by Clostridioides difficile.

Emotions are not a flood

In the video titled "Emotions Can Affect Human Gene Expression", Yin Ye believes that emotions can cause genetic changes and pass them on to the next generation through inheritance. There is also a big misunderstanding in this statement.

Emotions affect gene expression, derived from epigenetic theory.

Epigenetics is not the same as Mendelian genetics with which we are familiar. Mendelian genetics is DNA inheritance. Epigenetics does not involve changes in genetic material. Inheritance is mainly achieved through mechanisms such as DNA methylation, post-translational histone modification, chromatin remodeling, RNA editing, and small RNA regulation.

Simply put, environmental factors can lead to different expression of biological genes, and the genes themselves remain unchanged. "Expression" means that certain molecules attached to DNA undergo drastic environmental changes that may turn on or off certain "switches" that characterize DNA.

It is equivalent to this paragraph of text. The text itself has not changed, but you can choose to focus on this sentence and not on that sentence.

There are some epigenetic features that can be inherited, such as genomic imprinting. Most epigenetic changes are not inherited. Because germ cells will have a "reset" process, such as demethylation of the previous DNA methylation position and return to the "factory default settings", so as to ensure that the fertilized egg starts normal cell division and differentiation and completes embryo development.

Emotional change is just a mental activity that can affect gene expression, and it belongs to the concept of "pushing too far", or even too far, of epigenetics.

Genetic diseases and genetic factors are different

The video "Genetic Testing Helps You Have a Healthy Baby" is a field of interest of BGI, and some of Yin Ye's claims also need to be discussed.

Some genotypes lead to an increased risk of autoimmune diseases, which viewers perceive as "defective genes." In fact, such a statement is suspected of "doing not look at the dose to talk about toxicity". The risk is high. It may only be one in ten million or one in one million people. This kind of "high" risk has no reference to ordinary people. significance.

For example, in the video, genetic testing can detect autism.

However, current research proves that no gene or set of genes is "exactly" responsible for autism. Like the Alzheimer's disease mentioned above, there are many factors that cause the disease, and there is no single factor that leads to a single outcome.

The key is to understand the difference between genetic diseases and genetic factors. Some studies suggest that the vast majority of autism risk is explained by genetic factors, but cannot prove that autism occurs in a genetic manner.

Knowing the genotype and judging whether the person is at risk for autism do not match.

Yin Ye mentioned that a sperm donor is associated with several autistic children, and the evidence is not very sufficient. It would be more convincing if there was evidence that the donor had a particular genetic mutation.

One of the genetic diseases related to autism is called "fragile X syndrome", which is an X-chromosome-negative genetic disease. The incidence rate of males is higher than that of females, and the main manifestation is intellectual disability. About 15% to 60% of patients have autism, but only 2% of autistic patients have "fragile X syndrome" at the same time, so this genetic disease is not used as an indicator for autism screening.

Sperm donation by patients with "fragile X syndrome" has also occurred before. According to the "New York Times" report in May, McDougall, who suffers from Fragile X syndrome, privately donated sperm through social media and gave birth to 15 children, including children who were confirmed to be mentally retarded and still unable to speak at the age of 3.

Bio venture capital, scams are high

In recent years, the field of biological venture capital has been a high-incidence area of ​​scams, and there are many stories such as "quantum fluctuation speed reading" in the "gut flora" track.

The most famous is the Theranos blood testing company founded by Elizabeth Holmes, known as "Female Jobs", from 2015 to 2018, which went from popular to ruined scandal. The "Theranos blood test method" claims that it only takes a few drops of blood from the fingertips at a nearby cooperative pharmacy, and more than 240 test results can be obtained in four hours, which is half the cost of the hospital.

Investigators compared the blood test results of Theranos and professional medical institutions, and the results showed that Theranos test results were inaccurate, the number of tests was unrealistic, and even the testing equipment was outsourced.

After that, uBiome, another Silicon Valley biotech startup, nearly replicated Theranos’ scam.

▲ uBiome's test box, which was previously available on Amazon

For $69, uBiome says, for a few drops of blood from their fingertips, they can analyze their gut microbiome with high-throughput DNA sequencing technology in about four hours, classifying their microbes, and detecting items including Over 200 indicators including cholesterol and cancer, it will also provide relevant life advice that may alter the composition of the microbiome in the body.

When users submit the test results to professional medical institutions, doctors say that they "have not learned anything new" and the test is of little value. The company's finances were also reported, and the FBI became involved. Subsequently, the two founders were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, money laundering, and the company went bankrupt and liquidated in 2019.

It’s understandable that people are chasing digital “body management,” wondering about hidden genetic risks, microbiome risks, and even any tiny risks in the body. The desire to "change your life against the sky" makes the "chicken soup science" that can change your life by changing your emotions become popular.

However, "desire" also respects reality and science.

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