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.
Screamers finalists: science hype in 2021
Gorilla Glue Girl and stem cells
‘Gorilla Glue girl’ gets stem cell therapy after another hair debacle, NY 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’, Mirror. Another awful piece using “miracle” in the title. There’s not much reason to think the stem cells mentioned in this article did anything meaningful.
Yes, the vaccine does change your DNA, but only indirectly, as I try to explain in my latest Forbes piece here https://t.co/DJ8JLG5PBA
— Steven Salzberg (@StevenSalzberg1) November 29, 2021
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 Israel, Jerusalem 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.