Weekend reads: WaPo blows it on COVID, paper-mill detector, adult pluripotent stem cells

Imagine writing or editing an article for the WaPo about risky, unproven medical interventions for COVID that desperate patients might consider. Then you link directly to the websites selling this stuff in your article.

What the heck?

WaPo links to risky long COVID “treatments”

By linking, you not only are driving customers to these firms, but also you’re elevating their website standing with Google.

This is exactly what the Post did recently with a story on long-haul COVID with this story: Desperate covid long-haulers turn to costly, unproven treatments. (Should I not have linked to the WaPo story?)

This is a major disappointment from the newspaper. Linking to a stem cell clinic selling unproven, potentially risky stuff is harmful and unnecessary.

They also linked to other similar things.  It’s like, “here’s all these unproven things, and by the way if you want to try them, here are these handy links!” The linking is just not necessary as documentation that they exist.

I wrote politely to the editor Tracy Jan who handled the article but got no reply. Twice. If you have a moment and share my concerns, please ping her about it on Twitter. Maybe she’s just really busy.

"Hofstenia miamia, three-banded panther worms. Credit: Mansi Srivastava and Kathleen Mazza-Curll"
“Hofstenia miamia, three-banded panther worms. Credit: Mansi Srivastava and Kathleen Mazza-Curll.” These worms have adult pluripotent stem cells called neoblasts.

Recommended reads

Embryonic origins of adult pluripotent stem cells, Cell. This is a very interesting article. I have to admit when I first read the title I thought it might be about something else entirely. My worry was that this was an article about the idea of adult pluripotent stem cells in people, such as sketchy MUSE cells or VSELs. It’s likely that both of these cell types don’t actually exist. Instead, this cool Cell paper is about actual stem cells in worms.

Epigenome Programming by H3.3K27M Mutation Creates a Dependence of Pediatric Glioma on SMARCA4, Cancer Discovery. My lab has been working on epigenomics K27M mechanisms for many years so it’s great to see articles like this one that shed light on the oncogenic pathway.

Fibroblast inflammatory priming determines regenerative versus fibrotic skin repair in reindeer, Cell. If only we could get fibroblast-like cells to consistently promote healing rather than scarring in people. Maybe we can get there. This also resonates with many clinics selling MSCs, which often contain many fibroblast-like cells that can form scars instead of heal in some cases. I don’t think the clinics have any idea in many cases as to how the MSCs will behave in their customers. I have heard of scarring.

Paper-mill detector put to the test in push to stamp out fake science, Nature. We’ll see if this becomes an effective tool in the long run. Hope so.

FXR inhibition may protect from SARS-CoV-2 infection by reducing ACE2, Nature.  A briefing on this article in the journal highlighted how this liver drug seems to block viral entry and could be useful with COVID.

5 thoughts on “Weekend reads: WaPo blows it on COVID, paper-mill detector, adult pluripotent stem cells”

  1. A recent paper published by Dezawa group showed that Muse cell could “differentiate by phagocytosing” (https://doi.org/10.1007/s00018-022-04555-0). It sounds a little bit crazy to me because as far as I know no similar mechanism has been reported yet and the detailed mechanism is also unclear.

    Apart from this, the original single-cell RNA sequencing data is not public, which is not a usual practice.

  2. Why do you think VSELs/MUSE cells do not exist? A controversy had surfaced a decade ago but over time – the protocols to study them have improved and become robust. Of course they do exist and they alone have the ability to differentiate into adult counterparts in vivo without risk of teratoma formation unlike ES and iPS cells which only exist in vitro. VSELs routinely participate in regeneration and replacement of adult tissues. Their dysfunction results in cancer and age-related disorders. You may wish to refer to following published articles
    doi: 10.1007/s12015-022-10401-4
    doi: 10.1186/s13287-022-02784-5
    doi: 10.1007/s12015-022-10424-x

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