I posted earlier this year on the exciting news that stem cells, with the potential to create and repair new organs and tissues. might be generated much more easily than previously thought. Normally these need to be derived from Fetal cells, but generating true stem cells with the potential to become almost any type of tissue in the body from an more readily available and abundant source of cells, would be a miracle.
Turns out it was a miracle. That is, not true.
The papers were recently retracted. But now, worse, one of the co-authors has committed suicide.. This begs the question as to why stem cell research attracts so much fraud? In one sense it’s simple. Because it is a holy grail of biology. It would be the biggest thing since DNA. It could revolutionise medicine. In another sense, it’s even more worrying. These papers, because they are so high profile and make such profound claims, are immediately subject to intense scrutiny with many competing labs trying to replicate the results. In the case of the stem cell paper above, it was the failure of any other lab to do so that raised alarm bells. Turns out someone in the lab was a little too keen to get into Science. So what about the 99% of research that isn’t ruthlessly tested and replicated in this way? Well one would suspect that some will not replicate for a variety of non-fradulanet reasons, but it does suggest a percentage are truly fraudulent and not true. This is well documented by a number of reports this one from Bayer (http://www.nature.com/nrd/journal/v10/n9/full/nrd3439-c1.html). There’s much to consider, and I’ll be following up on this line in an upcoming post.