Monday, April 19, 2010

"60 Minutes" on stem cells and 21st Century Snake Oil

On 18 April 2010, "60 Minutes" used hidden cameras to expose medical conmen who prey on dying victims by using pitches that capitalize on the promise of stem cells to cure almost any disease. The targets were heavy duty fraudsters.

Ironically, at a different level, the charge of 21st century snake oil might also apply to the backers of California's Proposition 71 who also preyed on victims by promising that stem cell research could offer cures to many diseases. One of the victims in the "60 Minutes" story was quoted "Oh, I wanted to believe.", which could just as well apply to voters for Proposition 71.

Of the "60 Minutes" story, one of the fraudsters was one Larry Stowe, of whom "60 Minutes" stated:

Larry Stowe is not a medical doctor. He claims two PhDs, but we found he only has one in chemical engineering. He had a career at Mobil Oil and holds patents in the oil industry.

IPBiz notes that Lawrence R. Stowe is the named inventor on US 4,441,986, titled Shale retorting with inorganic removal prior to combustion, assigned to Mobil. The first claim states:

A process for the recovery of hydrocarbon products and energy from oil shale, including separation of coke from shale, comprising:

(a) feeding raw shale into a surface retort;

(b) retorting the raw shale in the retort to recover hydrocarbon products and produce coke on the inorganic matrix;

(c) removing the retorted shale from the retort;

(d) recovering sensible heat from the retorted shale;

(e) crushing the retorted shale to a size sufficient so that the coke and inorganic matrix may be separated;

(f) separating the crushed, retorted shale into a coke fraction and an inorganic matrix fraction;

(g) contacting the coke fraction with either superheated steam or air in order to form carbonaceous product gases at a temperature of to C.; and

(h) recovering process heat from said product gases.

Separately, Lawrence R. Stowe is co-author of "Mass transfer with heterogeneous and first order homogeneous reaction using the film theory" out of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois, published in Chemical Engineering Science.

Of Proposition 71 as snake oil, see, for example:

Proposition 71: a $3 billion jug of snake oil?

New Jersey voters reject bond measure on stem cell research on 6 Nov 07

Stem cell research: disservice in the eye of the beholder?


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