Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Washington Post Stein_Irresponsible Reporting on Human Embryonic Stem Cell Trial

The Washington Post published an embarrassing article entitled the "First patient treated in stem cell study" by Rob Stein on October 11, 2010.  The study that Stein's article refers to is the first human clinical trial performed using human embryonic stem cells to treat recent spinal chord injury in the United States.  Stein writes, "Doctors will, however, also conduct a series of specially designed tests to see whether the treatment helps the patients." 

Stein has it WRONG....dead wrong.  This study is designed only as a SAFETY study.  The results of this study cannot begin to access if the actual embryonic stem cell treatment helped or not.  Scientifically...it isn't possible.

Any suggestion that this study can provide insight into assesssing whether the treatment helped the patient is utterly irresponsible.

In fact, this clinical trial does not even have the proper scientific controls to access benefits of the treatment.  It can only provide information if it is SAFE or NOT.  Period.

One of the problems is the patient selection criteria.   Many skeptics were questioning why the human subjects for this trial were only selected from the recently injured, instead of from a population who had experienced more long term spinal injuries which no longer benefited from physical therapy.  Since many recent spinal chord injured patients have been found to improve slowly over time with only physical therapy, using only recently injured patients makes it difficult and impossible to access treatment effectiveness.

The reason why only recently injured patients are selected is suspicious.   Proponents of the embryonic stem cell community can "twist" the results of this safety study in the media, purporting that the patient improvement was specific to the treatment, when in fact, many of these patients would improve on thier own without treatment.

And here comes Stein...doing exactly that...twisting the facts...making statements that this study can access treatment effectiveness.  It is untruthful and dishonest.

The human clinical study has been designed specifically to access the safety of the treatment.   It has not been designed to assess if the treatment is effective or not.  Reporting that this study can provide any insights on effectiveness, is plain ridiculous and reckless.

Is Stein being a scientific baffoon...or is he promoting propaganda on purpose?  Who knows.  But one thing is for sure...Stein's Washington Post article is irresponsible.   There is no excuse for this type of reporting.

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