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The controversy of Dr. Dipak Das and resveratrol research manipulation

Doctor Dipak K. Das continues to be a controversial figure in alcohol and wine health research. His work and the allegations against him have added fuel to the fire when trying to resolve the question of whether resveratrol is truly beneficial to human health and how important it is compared to alcohol when reducing cardiovascular events.

In 2012, after a three year investigation by the University of Connecticut, the one time director of its Cardiovascular Research Centre was accused of falsifying and fabricated data at least 145 times, in some cases digitally manipulating images using PhotoShop.  

The investigation examined more than seven years of activity in Das’s lab, and centred on Western blot results that had been manipulated and used in published papers.  The western blot (sometimes called the protein immunoblot) is a widely used analytical technique used to detect specific proteins in a sample of tissue homogenate or extract.The investigation into Das was started after an anonymous allegation of research irregularities in 2008.The University subsequently dismissed Das. 

Das who died shortly after the accusations were published in September 2013 was best known for his work on resveratrol, a compound present in grapes and wine and the subject of continued speculation as to its benefits in cardiovascular health.

In a 60,000 pages long report the University alleged that

  • Das was “intimately involved in the generation of figures that were determined to have been manipulated (either by fabrication or falsification).”
  • Others in his laboratory may have also been involved in wrongdoing. DeFrancesco, the spokesman, said an investigation into who else might have been involved is continuing.
  • The data manipulation, investigators concluded, was “intentional” and “designed to deceive.”

Das responded to the allegations in a letter of July 2010 blaming racial discrimination saying "Thus, careful analysis of the entire issue leads to the conclusion that it is an entirely racial issue – war against Indian community and unfortunately I am also an Indian. I have been working in the Health Center since 1983 [almost 28 years] under three different administrations and all adorned me. Why? Because they honored the equal opportunity employer policy. In fact, former Dean Dr. Peter Deckers was my good friend and under his term, we flourished. The problem started from the DAY NEW ADMINISTRATION took over from Peter Deckers. I became the Devil for the Health Center, and so did all the Indians working with me. " 

Das also posted a video defending himself on YouTube:

Whether Das was truly the victim of racial discrimination or a disgruntled ex-colleague or was really fiddling data for personal financial gain, the evidence behind resveratrol and its benefit in human health are suggestive of being positive.