Fake stem cell news

fake-newsOne of my Top 20 Predictions for Stem Cells for 2017 was that we’d see more instances of fake stem cell news.

One type of stem cell fake news consists of promotional press releases that seek to recruit paying customers for unproven stem cell “treatments” based on made up or exaggerated claims about safety and efficacy or about the stem cell clinic’s credentials.

Another kind of fake stem cell news is more ideologically based and is mainly practiced by anti-embryonic stem cell (ESC) websites that have news-like items stating that ESCs have been proven not to work at all or to always cause tumors, while adult stem cells will save the world.

For whatever reason Google sometimes even includes both these types of bogus items in its news feed and I’m sure the same thing happens on Facebook. I’m going to be posting about instances of fake stem cell news over the course of this year.

Seen what you think might be stem cell fake news? Let me know.

Poll: What will Trump admin do about embryonic stem cells?

My 2017 New Year’s Stem Cell Resolution

CIRM is doing a fun, positive challenge to the stem cell community to post stem cell resolutions for the new year. You can read more about it here.

Be sure if you post yours on Twitter to include the #StemCellResolution hashtag. Have fun!

Below is my resolution in video form.

Remember that FDA public meeting on stem cells? Here’s the video

The FDA held a historic public meeting on stem cells a few months ago. Many people have been eagerly awaiting the video archive.

Here it is!

My memory from watching most of it live was that there was quite a bit of really interesting material at the meeting from the diverse presentations.

STAP cells (stap細胞) are real deal says new Vacanti patent declaration

STAP is back?vacanti-stap-figure-2017

Really?

No, I don’t believe so, but there’s an interesting development and twist on the STAP cell front.

Just a few days ago on January 4, 2017 Dr. Charles Vacanti, the originator of the STAP cells concept, submitted a declaration to the USPTO affirming the belief that STAP cells are real and requesting that the patent office allow the rejected STAP patent application to be reconsidered.

I find a number of aspects of this development notable:

  • The declaration says they have generated new data supporting STAP, but the two figures shown are in my opinion unconvincing. More specifically, just showing some floating spheres and an image of a single cell (not even stained for a marker) doesn’t really prove anything. You can see a snapshot of Figure 1 above. Note that in May 2016 an Obokata-associated website posted some supposed STAP validation data as well, but in my view it too wasn’t at all convincing.
  • qPCR results on induced expression of pluripotency genes are mentioned, but I didn’t see that actual data in the document or other related documents so as far as I can tell it can’t be evaluated at this point. Update: I’m still searching to see if I can find a patent document that shows the new qPCR and it may be in there somewhere. Stay tuned. BTW, you can look at the patent documents directly yourself at this USPTO website. Plug in patent application #14/397,080 and click on the tab at the top that reads “Image File Wrapper”. I’m not a patent expert so there may be other useful tabs at the top as well where for instance the qPCR data could be found or other information.
  • The declaration expresses concern with how Nature handled the STAP cell situation with the retractions, indicating that in the view of some of the authors there should have been an indication that the authors believed the concept was real.
  • Why do some of the STAP authors believe in it still but many others in the stem cell field don’t? Apparently, according to the declaration, the other labs who tried the STAP method just didn’t use the proper technique. I have doubts about that explanation. For instance, Vacanti’s own Harvard/B&W’s colleague George Daley and other top stem cell scientists published two BCA pieces in Nature refuting the existence of STAP. Reportedly they even did some of this work in Vacanti’s own lab with someone who was an author on the STAP papers.
  • The STAP cell patent application has been transferred to a private company called Vcell Therapeutics, Inc., which seems somewhat obscure. A Japanese blog has dug into this situation and mentions a J. Kelly Ganjei, a name I’m not familiar with, as a leader of Vcell. There’s even some speculation that Vcell may be short for “Vacanti cell”, but I don’t know about that. Given the sound of the company’s name I can’t help but think of VSELs, another controversial kind of stem cell, when reading the word “Vcell”.

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