Over at ScienceBlogs, Orac has put up an excellent post on the disturbing stem cell situation in Italy. This is a great, probing piece and I highly recommend it, but there’s more going on there too that is worth taking a look at including social media stuff.
One of the other intriguing things about this piece is the extremely energetic discussion ongoing in the comments section on the piece.
A couple specific comments caught my eye in particular.
Comment #76 is from Dr. Javier Lopez, President of the Regenerative Medicine Institute (RMI) in Mexico:
My name is Dr. Javier Lopez, President of the Regenerative Medicine Institute in Mexico, all bloggers are more than welcome to ask any questions regarding the validity of our program. It is said when people use these forums to cite certain information that they cannot back up in any way shape or form. RMI complies with all Mexican Health Code as well as FDA Regulations regarding stem cell research. I wish we all do our due diligence before posting false accusations. http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?term=stem+cells+and+ageless
That’s not particularly unusual, but what happened next in the comments is certainly fascinating and revealing I think.
Immediately after Lopez’s comment, at comment #77 is a comment from one Dana George, who self-identifies as a “freelance writer” and “professional writer for 25 years” who says she has undertaken a two year, seemingly independent investigation of sorts of RMI in Mexico.
She also says, “I sincerely undertook this assignment with the critical eye of a longtime reporter.…”
What she found, she reports, is very positive about RMI and she is critical of Orac’s article and the “hocus pocus” discussion going on in the comments section.
She adds that amongst the patients treated there, “People who should have been dead years ago are thriving.”
Big claim, huh?
Then at comment #79 is something quite exceptional in the way of bringing clarity to a situation. Sort of like seeing a meteor streak across the night sky in fact.
We have a commenter, Narad, whose comment (see above) indicates that s/he has discovered that Dana George (according to George’s own LinkedIn Profile–see below) is in fact an employee of RMI. Some social media shenanigans here.
Be careful of “independent” voices about for-profit stem cell clinics.
Verify whether they really are independent voices and lack major COIs.
Orac calls this behavior in the comments, “astroturfing”.