New Cells On Trial

Image from stock.xchang.com

Image from stock.xchang.com

For a while every time I turned around there was a new crime drama, sometimes the same premise, different city. Just as often, I find new scientific studies that are refuted or upheld, which is just as it should be in science. A new study I blogged about earlier (See New Cell on the Block) has now gone on trial in the scientific community. Let’s step into the courtroom and see the arguments shall we? The following is from the article Acid-Bath Stem Cell Study under Investigation in Nature magazine published February 17, 2014.

Objection Defense
A 2011 paper by the same author seemed to have a figure that was manipulated three times to indicate separate findings. There was a “mix up of some of the panels.” But it didn’t change the data or the conclusions. The journal may correct the error with the panels.
Images of two of the placentas created by the stem cells in her experiment looked too similar. One researcher sent over 100 images and there was confusion over which photos to use.
10 prominent scientists who responded to a survey in Nature reported they could not reproduce the results in her most recent study. While it seems to be a simple process  (take cells add acid) it has a tricky protocol that many labs may  not be able to replicate without more guidance from the study’s author. The one lab that reports being successful had heavy guidance from the original researcher.
Eight failures were reported to a science blog. Most did not use the type of cells used in the original study.

So what does the jury think? Are the first two objections even significant? Should replication of results be a bigger concern than graphics in a previous paper? Is it too early to sentence this research to death?

Whether a new protocol published will enable others to replicate the original results remains to be seen, but I’m just as much on the edge of my seat watching it as any Law and Order episode.

*Note: Since this post was created, the authors of the study have retracted it and promised to resubmit it once the problems have been worked out.

photo from morguefile.com

photo from morguefile.com

2 responses to “New Cells On Trial

  1. Pingback: The New Cell on the Block | The Phoenix Series·

  2. Reverse the aging process?

    What would life be like if we started out old and became progressively younger?

    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is in a collection of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald available on Project Gutenberg. It is a very quick read.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/6695/pg6695.html

    Here is the backstory:
    THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON.
    by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    “This story was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain’s to the effect that it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end.”

    There seems to also be an audio recording:
    https://archive.org/details/TheCuriousCaseofBenjaminButton

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