Monday, March 06, 2006

Sometimes it's what you don't say that matters

The journal Science on February 24, 2006 discussed the mandatory sterilization imposed by Nazis of people with schizophrenia and other supposedly inherited diseases. [311 Science 1079]. Truly something that was bad. The journal Science did not discuss the Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927), in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes upheld the sterilization of feeble-minded Carrie Buck, stating: Three generations of imbeciles are enough. But, it is said, however it might be if this reasoning were applied generally, it fails when it is confined to the small number who are in the institutions named and is not applied to the multitudes outside. It is the usual last resort of constitutional arguments to point out shortcomings of this sort. But the answer is that the law does all that is needed when it does all that it can, indicates a policy, applies it to all within the lines, and seeks to bring within the lines all similarly situated so far and so fast as its means allow.

Also, the Wall Street Journal on March 6, 2006 has an editorial "Drug Reckoning," in which it criticizes the delay of the FDA in approving Erbitux. The WSJ states: "In short, Erbitux is a perfect example of why it's important to get active drugs with reasonable safety profiles out before all the efficacy data is reined to the 10th decimal place, as the FDA always tries to insist. (...) Think of all the new benefits that still keep being discoverd for the humble aspirin."

The WSJ editorial says nothing about VIOXX.

Separately, within the press release of the AAAS for the St. Louis meeting concerning the Hwang scandal, we have

Donald Kennedy, editor of Science, said he faces a recurring question: In analyzing the peer-review reports of Hwang’s papers, has he seen anything that should’ve raised a red flag earlier? “I have to say, I have not,” he said, “but my colleagues may.”

Yet, in an article in the Feb. 17, 2006 issue of Science ["Schatten: Pitt Panel Finds 'Misbehavior' but Not Misconduct"], we have the text

"For example, Hwang told Schatten in January 2005 that some cell lines had been lost through contamination. But Schatten failed to realize from this that there was not enough time to grow and analyze new ones by 15 March when the paper was first submitted. He also failed to ensure that all 25 co-authors had approved the manuscript before submission."

One notes in footnote 8 to the 2005 paper [308 Science at 1783], the authors acknowledge that they complied with the January 2005 ethics rules of the Korean government and received approval on 12 January 2005. Thus, apart from the contamination issue, anyone looking at the paper knew, by what it said, that there was only time from January 12, 2005 (date of approval) to March 15, 2005 (date of paper submission), which anyone familiar with the art knew was not enough time to grow and analyze [11] stem cell lines. Further, the journal Science itself failed to ensure that all 25 authors (Hwang, Schatten, and SPECIFICALLY the 23 others) had approved (or even seen) the manuscript before submission. The fact that some co-authors had not seen it, and would not have approved it, probably produced the anonymous internet postings.

Also, the 17 Feb. article notes that Schatten broke with Hwang immediately after Hwang told him about the unethical egg donations, although the article does not mention that the unethical egg donation issue may have been a pretext for breaking with Hwang for other reasons. Schatten was already aware of the "PD Notebook" investigations by that time, which raised issues well beyond the egg donation matter.

[See 311 Science 928 (2006)]

As a separate matter, even in the prosecutor interrogations of March 2006, Hwang has not conceded that his work in the first paper in Science is fraudulent. The first paper is 303 Science 1669 (2004), and appeared online 12 February 2004. The 2005 paper says of the first paper In 2004, evidence was presented that a human NT-hESC line (NT-hESC-1) was derived by transferring the donor's cumulus cell nucleus into her own enucleated oocyte; however, questions remained as to whether the cell line had a parthogenetic origin. The method of the first paper used an egg and somatic tissue FROM THE SAME PERSON (obviously a woman), rather than having somatic tissue from ONE PERSON and an egg from a DIFFERENT PERSON. No other lab has claimed to harvest stem cells from a blastocyst prepared by SCNT.


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