Vote for Screamers awards for worst science hype of the year: Gorilla Glue, COVID, diabetes ‘cure’, more

The amount of biomedical science hype out there is mindboggling at times, but some media or other items really take the cake for being exceptionally bad.

Today’s post highlights the worst of the year 2021 as the candidates for my annual The Screamers science hype award. Click on the link in the previous sentence to see the winner last year, which was a surprise given his position at the time.

What about 2021?

Please vote for which of these finalists should get The Screamers award for worst science hype of the year in the poll. Note that the emphasis so far with The Screamers Awards is on biomedical science. NOTE: Our poll is temporarily not working. Apologies and stay tuned. You can also leave your vote in the comments or email me.

You can read more about each candidate below.

I feel like saying “enjoy” these extreme examples of hype, but these headlines and articles are also frustrating to read for those of us advocating for science-based medicine and science more generally.

The Screamers Science Hype Awards.
The Screamers Science Hype Awards.

Screamers finalists: science hype in 2021

Gorilla Glue Girl and stem cells

‘Gorilla Glue girl’ gets stem cell therapy after another hair debacleNY Post. There are several awful things about this article including the wrong assumption that stem cells and PRP restore hair loss. They also refer to the stem cell clinic doing this as experts. I’m also thinking the moniker “Gorilla Glue Girl” is a really bad idea.

Supposed Diabetes Cure

First person cured of type 1 diabetes thanks to stem cells,  Freethink.  They quote the patient, “It’s like a miracle.” Yikes. The data are so preliminary here that to claim a cure in the title is a big mistake. I believe this experimental infusion will not last very long. Ironically the subheader when you go to the actual article says experts are cautiously optimistic, which doesn’t fit with the headline. In November I also briefly took the NY Times to task in one item of a weekly recommended reads article for its headline reporting on the same research subject and raising the possibility of a cure.

Stem cell miracle

‘My broken heart was mended by stem cell transplant miracle – and an old flame’, MirrorAnother awful piece using “miracle” in the title. There’s not much reason to think the stem cells mentioned in this article did anything meaningful.

COVID misinformation and hype

Yes, The Vaccine Changes Your DNA. A Tiny Bit. That’s A Good Thing”, Forbes. This article and especially its title rightly drew a lot of heat as an inaccurate claim. They later changed the title to be less misleading. The author was defending it on Twitter (see above) but the claim was wrong about the supposed DNA change. The concern is that anti-vax folks could pick up on the inaccurate claim to discourage COVID vaccination. Health Feedback dissected that COVID article.

“NJ man recovers from COVID-19 thanks to stem cells from Golden lab”. Fox31. I wrote a whole post about how terrible this article was in terms of stem cells for COVID-19.

Rescue effort from overseas brings stem cells to COVID patient in IsraelJerusalem Post. This one hypes unproven stem cells for COVID. It seems within hours of my original post on this hype the worst part of the article was removed.


Let’s finish with xenbots, the much-hyped purported stem cell robots.

I’ve written about how I think the team behind xenobots has oversold both what the xenobots are and what they can do. Perhaps as a result, the media dove into the story of xenobots after the latest research paper on them and we saw many disastrous headlines and articles.

This CNN piece might be the worst: Tiny living Pac-Man robots have learned how to reproduce.

7 thoughts on “Vote for Screamers awards for worst science hype of the year: Gorilla Glue, COVID, diabetes ‘cure’, more”

  1. Hank, I agree that the MIT paper on integration of virus was irresponsible, but we should keep in mind that it was published in PNAS, the original peer-review-optional journal.

  2. I’m still not an immunologist, but I did teach developmental biology, and if my memory is correct, VDJ recombination occurs during development, not in response to an antigen.

    1. Yes, Jeanne, you are right.
      If you read the Forbes article it seem to allude to this subtlety eventually. I don’t know if that passage was also changed from previous versions with the original bad headline? It seems the author is arguing (wrongly I’d say) that the vaccine indirectly “changes DNA” by changing the balance of different immune cells that already had their VDJ DNA rearrangements happen years ago. What a mess. So then anything that impacts the relative numbers of different immune cells or other cells with slight differences in their genomes “changes our DNA”? Huh? The article ends up just being fodder for the anti-vax folks without much on the plus side educationally for readers. What was the point of writing it then?

  3. I think you’re a little harsh on the Forbes piece. Yes, the headline was very unfortunate in the context of Covid pandemic politics. And, yes, V(D)J recombination is fully natural. But it does change the DNA sequence of a (very small but important) subset of cells. I think it’s actually good for the public to realize that DNA isn’t (just?) some pristine and unalterable storehouse of information and antibody formation is a nice example. That actually seems to have been part of the motivation of the piece – to educate people about some of the complexities of biology. But, yes, the headline WAS a bad idea – entirely predictable that it would be misunderstood and misused. Ironically (?), he criticizes an earlier study for a similar problem:

    (As an aside, that study by the MIT biologists was highly irresponsible. They were basically showing off their technical skills, saying “look what we can get the virus to do!” without considering how their work might be twisted, once anti-vaxxers got their hands on it…)

    1. @Hank,
      There is definitely some unintentional irony in the Forbes piece. What was the point of it? In the end it just confuses people I’d say.

      As Jeanne mentioned the immune cell DNA rearrangements occur during development, not after getting a vaccine. See my other comment too on this.

  4. What about the 5G tower activating the graphene hydras within the “vaccine”????

    The pandemic has really made people believe some weird stuff!!!

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