A Health Scare and 5,000 Mile Journey
The journey to breakthroughs in glycocalyx research and a new solution begins with two people, 5,000 miles apart living in two separate continents.
Robert “Bob” Long is a successful businessman who lives in Utah. The journey that lead Bob to establish a new company began in an unpleasant way—with a health scare in 2009 when he was 54 years old, had Type 2 diabetes, and was 65 pounds overweight. The stresses of a life constantly on the road, building an international company, and the pressure to always perform at his job as a top sales executive led him to pause when he noticed a recurring tightness and pain in his chest.
He went to his personal physician who did a basic check and was concerned that he was at risk for a heart attack and suggested he immediately go see his friend who is a cardiologist. So the doctor made a quick call and sent Bob to the regional medical center to meet with a cardiologist who was working there that day.
A one-hour morning appointment dragged into the evening. The assumption after performing several tests and confirming that he hadn’t had a heart attack was that Bob had blockage in the arteries of his heart which was causing the tightness he felt when he walked up hills. The doctor recommended that he perform an angiogram with the intent of putting in stents if they found any blockages to prevent a heart attack in the future.
Good News and Bad News
But after the test, when the doctor showed Bob and his wife the results, he said “I have good news, and I have bad news.”
“Give me the good news first,” said Bob.
“You haven’t had a heart attack, so there’s no damage, and there isn’t any major blockage that required a stent,” replied the cardiologist.
“So what’s the bad news?”
“We don’t really know what’s causing your chest pain and tightness. All I can do is prescribe some medications, suggest you change your lifestyle, lose some weight, and start exercising. Come back in 30 days and we’ll do a follow-up.”
“I Should Have Lived a Better Life.”
Like most patients, what Bob heard and thought to himself was: “Dude! You really screwed up! You should have lived a better life. You don’t have much time left. And the doctors don’t know how to help me.”
The doctor started writing a stack of prescriptions. Bob researched what each was supposed to do, but each one had significant side effects. He said to himself, “I don’t want to take these drugs the rest of my life! The side effects that they each list sound worse than my fear of what’s wrong!”
As timing would have it, Bob had just been part of the sale of a company he had helped grow so he had financial resources, and perhaps more importantly, time on his hands. Since his doctor couldn’t tell him what was wrong with him, Bob decided to take his health into his own hands and figure it out for himself. Bob started to exercise, lost weight, and 30 days later had somewhat better stats so his doctor told him he was on the right track, reduced the drugs and told Bob to come back a year later for a follow-up.
Fast forward one year. Bob had a stress EKG test to check again for blockage. The result: Bob looked fine, all is normal. Still no answers. But Bob was motivated to do something. He could have gone home, taken the pills from the doctor, lived a crappy life, and surrendered, but that wasn’t the path Bob chose to take.
A Quest to Discover the “Why”
Bob has always believed that there is a reason for everything. He embraced that his greater purpose in his life was to find out the “why” behind what starts a downward health spiral and to see if there is a solution that could help millions of people including himself.
By chance—well, perhaps it wasn’t by chance, but part of God’s plan—a good friend’s brother, a physician, told Bob the news of research about the glycocalyx and its composition. Upon hearing how the glycocalyx lines every artery, vein, and capillary, and how the primary composition of the gel-like glycocalyx is similar to some compounds found in certain seaweeds, a light turned on. What if the health of his glycocalyx could be his problem and if natural ingredients could be the solution?
Diet had always been on Bob’s mind as a possible culprit. Seaweed is not part of most North American’s diet and culture. Yet seaweed is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and it turns out the same type of compounds found in the structure of the glycocalyx.
It’s no secret that people from Japan and the Mediterranean live longer than people who live in North America. Seaweed makes up an important part of the diet in Japan. And in the Mediterranean, where smaller farms grow more of their own fruits, vegetables, grapes, olives, and artichokes using organic methods, people in that region of the world enjoy better health.
But the solution isn’t just to eat seaweed, more vegetables, and more fruit. It’s very difficult to eat enough of these foods daily. Let’s face it. A balanced diet is much more than seaweed, vegetables and fruit. Unfortunately, many people consume pre-prepared processed foods. Most households simply can’t afford the cost of buying a high volume of fresh organic produce, even if they were available to purchase.
Bob hired a biochemist, nutritionist, and seaweed experts. He was determined to become an expert himself in nutrition to discover if his theory that diet was linked to glycocalyx health was accurate. At first, Bob thought the need was to improve the strength of the arteries. In fact, the first version of the product he created was named Arterosil™. But after more research, he came to realize that the arteries comprise just 1% of the entire vascular system. The real place where vascular health needed improvement was in the capillaries: the 99% of the vascular system that had been often overlooked. That revelation led Bob to ultimately create today’s much improved patented formulation of Endocalyx™.But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, Bob wanted to learn more about the glycocalyx. So to learn more, he set up an alert on Google so that any time a paper was published about the glycocalyx, he would know it.
An Alert That Forged a New Partnership
As Bob began to read publicly available glycocalyx research, he noticed a name that kept recurring as a thought leader. Bob thought to himself, “Someday I’d like to meet Dr. Hans Vink and have him answer my questions one-on-one.” Dr. Vink lived in the Netherlands, some 5,000 miles away from Bob’s home in Utah.
Then one day in early 2012, Bob got an alert about a patent that had been issued to Dr. Vink for a glycocalyx testing device that had been referenced in earlier papers that Bob had been reading. Dr. Vink had been studying the glycocalyx since the 1980s, but it took until the mid-1990s for technology to enable peering deep inside the capillaries to take pictures.
After the discovery of a very thick glycocalyx, and development of new techniques to take the early pictures, it took another decade of research to see if glycocalyx health was linked to diseases and conditions. Out of necessity, Dr. Vink created a glycocalyx testing device, with the first version of this device patented in 2012. By this time, Dr. Vink had been established as a glycocalyx expert worldwide.
So nearly a half world apart, Bob and Dr. Vink were both on a parallel journey to learn about the glycocalyx. While Dr. Vink was researching the importance of the glycocalyx for vascular health and organ function, Bob was testing glycocalyx nutritional ingredients on himself.
What Bob didn’t have was a way to confirm if the nutraceutical he was testing on himself was actually making a difference. He needed, and desired deeply, to confirm that he was on the right path. Dr. Vink held the keys to that part of this story with his newly patented testing device.
A Glycocalyx Research Pioneer
Dr. Vink may technically be considered a biomedical researcher. More specifically, he is a pioneer in the study of the endothelial glycocalyx. He is one of the first researchers to study the glycocalyx when he focused his expertise on medical imaging. As a result, Dr. Vink and his team were one of the first research groups to capture realistic images of the glycocalyx and focus on its significance.
Dr. Vink developed the testing technology system to clinically assess the glycocalyx. He is often sought out to lecture at universities and medical institutions around the world due to his expertise in the science of glycocalyx observation and his passion for sharing his extensive understanding of the vascular system. Dr. Vink earned a PhD in Medical Physics from the University of Amsterdam in 1994, where he began his study of the glycocalyx. He continued his research as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia and returned to Amsterdam in 1997 to continue his work. He was awarded a Research Fellowship from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences for his study of the glycocalyx from 2000 through 2005.
In 2005 he became an Established Investigator of the Netherlands Heart Foundation. In 2006 he joined the department of Physiology at Maastricht University, where he continues glycocalyx research within the Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM).
Breakthrough: A Clinical Test of Glycocalyx Health
The technology that allows testing the glycocalyx is a system known today as GlycoCheck™. This revolutionary patented imaging software and hardware system includes a small video microscope camera placed under the tongue to measure a key aspect of the overall health of the glycocalyx. Dr. Vink learned that testing under the tongue provides a representation of the entire body’s glycocalyx health and its impact on microvascular health.
In 2012, when Dr. Vink secured a patent on the first generation of GlycoCheck, and Bob became aware of its existence, Bob wasn’t quite sure how to approach Dr. Vink. Bob was concerned that because he didn’t have any research or medical credentials, Dr. Vink wouldn’t take his inquiry seriously. But Bob was determined after taking his first-generation nutraceutical to get tested, and he didn’t want Dr. Vink to know he was making himself a guinea pig with his own formula.
Bob had an idea. As mentioned earlier, he was working with a biochemist who was helping to formulate his nutraceutical. She was going to a science meeting in Switzerland and France so Bob asked her a favor: would she please contact Dr. Vink and arrange a meeting with him in the Netherlands and ask to be tested on his new GlycoCheck device. She did. Part of Bob’s plan was that since she wasn’t taking the nutraceutical yet, her test could serve as a baseline. If the discussion with Dr. Vink went well, she could make an introduction to Bob. She met for an entire day with Dr. Vink, was tested, and told him that she wanted to have Bob Long contact him about his research.
Within a day, Bob emailed Dr. Vink, telling him he had read all his papers and was a big fan, and asked if he could meet with him in the Netherlands. Dr. Vink was surprised to find out that Bob had read his papers and was well versed in the research. A few weeks later, Bob was in Dr. Vink’s office to be tested on the GlycoCheck device.
Bob deliberately didn’t tell Dr. Vink he was taking his nutraceutical. Bob had theorized specific ingredients would improve glycocalyx health, so he had his scientific team formulate his first-generation product. They had started a double-blind study to test if the nutraceutical was making a positive impact at the dose they hypothesized would work.
Still, Bob was nervous to find out if his time and money developing a nutraceutical would produce a better test outcome. Dr. Vink, in the meantime, thought to himself that Bob surely wouldn’t have a healthy glycocalyx. Bob was overweight and had Type 2 Diabetes, and Bob suspected he had compromised the glycocalyx in the arteries of his heart.
Burgers and Fries
Dr. Vink knew his glycocalyx was healthy because he tested himself on many occasions. He was thin, had a healthy diet, and exercised regularly, so he showed Bob what a healthy score would look like.
“You Americans like your burgers and fries,” Dr. Vink kindly told Bob, hoping not to disappoint him. “So I don’t expect you’ll have a good score.”
Dr. Vink measured Bob on the GlycoCheck. It only takes a few minutes to calculate the results. Moments later, Dr. Vink said “let’s measure you again.” Bob couldn’t tell by the reaction if that was good or bad. A few moments passed by, and Dr. Vink turned to a colleague sitting next to him, started speaking in Dutch, and pointed to the screen. Bob had no idea what they were saying.
“Will I live or die?” Bob asked. After all, earlier in the day Dr. Vink had shown Bob several studies he had conducted. One of those studies was on sepsis patients in ICU that had shown the GlycoCheck system accurately predicted who would live, and who would die, if the Glycocalyx was not restored quickly.
Dr. Vink replied, “I wanted to test you twice because I’m confused. Your score is better than mine, and I didn’t expect that with your medical history.”
Bob jokingly said, “I cheat.”
“What do you mean you cheat?”
“I have been developing a nutraceutical and taking it for several months. My reason for coming here to meet you, and get tested, was to see if I my formulation was working.”
During this same meeting, the scientist who met Dr. Vink months earlier had her glycocalyx health measured again. After the return from her first trip and test months earlier, she started to take Bob’s nutraceutical. She was tested again, and her score had improved markedly.
“My reason for traveling 5,000 miles to meet you and get tested was to see if I was on the right track,” said Bob.
The “So What?” Discovery
At that moment, Dr. Vink’s eyes teared up and he began to become emotional.
“Do you realize you might be on the path to discover the ‘so what’?” said Dr. Vink. “In the 25 years I’ve worked to prove the glycocalyx is real, I had to develop the testing device. When I performed the test for people, and when they have an unhealthy score, their immediate question has been ‘what can I do to improve my score?’ And all I could do was give them the typical answers: lose weight, eat better, exercise, don’t smoke, and so on. I’ve never had a true solution I could offer.”
Hoping this might be the outcome of his test, Bob brought along samples of the nutraceutical he had developed and gave some to Hans (by now, they were on a first name basis). Hans took some right way, and the next day when they got together again, Hans tested himself, and he was surprised to see that his score had improved.
Career Crossroads: Answering the “so what?”
Hans told Bob that he didn’t know of any drugs, supplements, or other nutraceuticals on the market that specifically supported glycocalyx health. Now Hans was out of his comfort zone. Would he make the career decision to remain a pure academic researcher mostly focused on publishing papers and getting grants? Or would he dedicate himself to translational glycocalyx research with a mission toward bringing this knowledge to the world to measure people’s glycocalyx health? And would Hans join Bob to figure out the rest of the ‘so what?’ that could be a life-changing improvement people’s health and longevity?
During that meeting, Bob and Hans decided to work and form a company together. The explicit purpose was to improve the GlycoCheck technology and develop a test score that could be easily understood by both healthcare practitioners and patients. A big part of their work together has been to test multiple compounds in the nutraceuticals’ formulation to isolate how those ingredients would affect physiology and the body’s reaction. They tested themselves and other volunteers and ultimately developed the formula that is now known as Endocalyx™. That formula was so unique that they were granted a patent for the method of treating the glycocalyx by the US patent office in 2018. Endocalyx has also been patented in Japan and South Korea.
In the years since, Dr. Hans Vink has published, or co-authored, over 200 peer-reviewed research papers about the glycocalyx. In 2018 alone, there were 13 peer-reviewed papers published using the GlycoCheck™ as a tool to understand the development and progression of multiple diseases. In addition, about 9,000 other papers by other researchers have cited Dr. Vink’s work.