Uncorking the Secret to a Healthy Life

In other words, what's in that glass of wine might be helpful, but perhaps not for the reasons Sirtris thinks.

"Well, I don't believe we need to fully understand what these genes do to make a drug that will work," said Sinclair. "Many of the drugs that we take today, we don't know what really, the downstream effects are. It's very complex. The body is complex, I'm not denying that."

"The specifics, the very fine specifics about the mechanism which might be part of the sources of academic conflict," Westphal admitted. "To the company, it's not that important, but all we care about is, are we right? And will it work in man?"

More Than a Just Glass of Wine

While they wait to find out, should the rest of us start pouring the pinot noir?

"Probably, if you wanted the health-giving effects of resveratrol from red wine, you'd have to have a couple of hundred glasses of wine," said Westphal. "Per day."

That's why Sirtris is hoping to pack the power of resveratrol into a tiny pill. But in the meantime, you can buy a lower dose of resveratrol at health food stores. What is unclear is whether the over-the-counter versions work, or whether they're safe.

Kaeberlein points out that even if those resveratrol supplements work in humans, there's still not enough concrete evidence to start taking it regularly.

"There is no safety data on resveratrol, particularly long-term safety data," he said. "I would be particularly wary if I was taking a prescription drug. One of the targets resveratrol is known to act on are enzymes that influence the way certain drugs are metabolized. So there's certainly a possibility of drug interactions."

If this endeavor fails, Westphal admits he'll be disappointed. But if it succeeds, "It's going to be great. It can change the world."

So, despite the doubt -- and the risk -- behind their venture, these two are willing to drink to the idea that they've uncorked the secret to longer, healthier lives.

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