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Can medical research be brought back from rigor mortis?

A review of Richard F. Harris Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions by Marcus Munafò at Nature: Harris introduces us to the growing field of metascience — the scientific study of science itself — and some of those working in it. These reproducibility firefighters are providing answers to such empirical questions, and identifying interventions. Robert Kaplan and Veronica Irvin at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that when the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute required preregistration of primary outcomes (the main outcome against which success should be judged) in clinical trials, the proportion of studies reporting a benefit fell from 57% to 8%. That’s the good news. The bad news Read More ›

Research group: Up to 85% of medical research funds may be wasted

From University of Plymouth at Eurekalert: Funders need to take more responsibility for the efficiency of the research they fund It has been estimated that up to 85% of medical research is wasted because it asks the wrong question, is badly designed, not published or poorly reported. Health research around the world depends heavily on funding from agencies which distribute public funds. But a new study has found that these agencies are not as open as they could be about what they are doing to prevent this waste and that governments responsible for the public money they distribute are not holding them to account. The findings come in response to a question posed by a letter published on-line today, 9th Read More ›

What exactly does “evolutionary medicine” do that requires this expensive outlay?

12 PhD positions in the Research Training Group “Evolutionary Processes in Adaptation and Disease” (EvoPAD): PhD projects in Biology, Medicine, and Philosophy Start: 1st April 2017. 3-year positions (TV-L E13 65 %) The new DFG-funded Research Training Group “Evolutionary Processes in Adaptation and Disease” (EvoPAD, GRK 2220) unites biological, medical, and philosophical research at the University of Münster, Germany. The core idea is to use the theory of evolution to understand processes leading to adaptation and/or disease. 12 PhD students will work on advancing evolutionary theory, and in turn, apply modern evolutionary approaches to medical questions. EvoPAD doctoral researchers will perform cutting-edge research in an interdisciplinary environment. Our multidisciplinary qualification program is tailored to individual career tracks, and offers opportunities for Read More ›

Peer review: Study suggests misconduct in bone health studies

From ScienceDaily: A new study suggests probable scientific misconduct in at least some of 33 bone health trials published in various medical journals. The study used statistical methods to detect scientific misconduct or research fraud and calls into question the validity of a body of research work led mainly by one researcher in Japan. The study is published in the November 9, 2016, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. … For the analysis of the 33 trials, 26 of which Sato was lead author, Bolland’s team conducted a rigorous review and found reported results that differed markedly from what could be expected statistically; further, the results were remarkably positive. The characteristics of the Read More ›

GMO lab mice are poor models for human diseases

From comparative medicine specialist Joseph Garner, interviewed by Aviva Garner at New Scientist: Of the drugs that get past the animal testing phase and into human trials, only about 1 in 9 actually make it to the market, and that’s dropping all the time. It costs about $2 billion to bring a single drug to market, largely because of failed human trials. And they usually fail simply because the drug doesn’t work, or not as well as animal testing predicted. (most paywalled) More. It may be relevant that humans can think, say, and do a lot of things that mice cannot, and we are not kept in cages all our lives either. So a disease would run its course in Read More ›

Implant allows paralyzed man to feel again

From Amy Ellis Nutt at Washington Post: For the first time, scientists have helped a paralyzed man experience the sense of touch in his mind-controlled robotic arm. For the cutting-edge experiment, a collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, electrodes smaller than a grain of sand were implanted in the sensory cortex of the man’s brain. The electrodes received signals from a robot arm. When a researcher pressed the fingers of the prosthesis, the man felt the pressure in the fingers of his paralyzed right hand, effectively bypassing his damaged spinal cord. The results of the experiment, which have been repeated over several months with 30-year-old Nathan Copeland, offer a breakthrough in the restoration Read More ›

P-values: Has science got probability wrong?

From professor of pharmacology David Colquhoun at Aeon: The aim of science is to establish facts, as accurately as possible. It is therefore crucially important to determine whether an observed phenomenon is real, or whether it’s the result of pure chance. If you declare that you’ve discovered something when in fact it’s just random, that’s called a false discovery or a false positive. And false positives are alarmingly common in some areas of medical science. … In 2005, the epidemiologist John Ioannidis at Stanford caused a storm when he wrote the paper ‘Why Most Published Research Findings Are False’, focusing on results in certain areas of biomedicine. He’s been vindicated by subsequent investigations. For example, a recent article found that Read More ›

War on cancer could benefit from design perspective?

From Oregon State U: Researchers have discovered a mechanism of intercellular communication that helps explain how biological systems and actions – ranging from a beating heart to the ability to hit a home run – function properly most of the time, and in some scenarios quite remarkably. The findings are an important basic advance in how cell sensory systems function. They shed light on the poorly-understood interaction between cells – and they also suggest that some of the damage done by cancer cells can be seen as a “failure to communicate.” … With this accuracy of communication, cells in a heart chamber collectively decide to contract at the appropriate time, and blood gets pumped, dozens of times a minute, for Read More ›

ID vs. natural selection — in health care?

Pos-Darwinista writes to say, I came across this rather strange report: Abstract The European Network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA) guidelines for health economic evaluations represent a consolidated view of non-binding recommendations for assessments of the relative effectiveness of pharmaceuticals or other health technologies. EUnetHTA views itself as the scientific and technological backbone of the development of health technology assessment in the European Union and among its member states and other partners. Unfortunately, the standards for health technology assessment proposed by EUnetHTA do not meet the standards of normal science. They do not support credible claims for the clinical and comparative cost-effectiveness of pharmaceuticals. In rejecting thestandards of normal science the guidelines put to one side the opportunity not only to Read More ›

No evidence dental flossing matters

Another health sciences correctitude goes down in flames. From Big Story: Last year, the Associated Press asked the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture for their evidence, and followed up with written requests under the Freedom of Information Act. When the federal government issued its latest dietary guidelines this year, the flossing recommendation had been removed, without notice. In a letter to the AP, the government acknowledged the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched, as required. The AP looked at the most rigorous research conducted over the past decade, focusing on 25 studies that generally compared the use of a toothbrush with the combination of toothbrushes and floss. The findings? The evidence for flossing is “weak, very Read More ›

Clinical research mostly not useful; news tsunami anyway?

From Gary Schwitzer at Health News Review: Since many papers on clinical research spawn, in turn, dozens or hundreds of news stories, one can easily see how a tsunami of not-ready-for-prime-time medical research news and information drowns the public daily. Ioannidis makes this link with one line in his article – “Public media and related commentators of health news [53] may also help by focusing on the need to obtain clinically useful research and not compromise for less.” That citation is a paper we published about our work. More. Truth to tell, science writing has not always been a gift to science research. Like peer review, it must be evaluated every now and then. See also: Butter will not kill Read More ›

Treating religious beliefs as a form of mental illness

While we all sleep, our betters have plans for us. From Digital Journal: Kathleen Taylor, a neurologist at Oxford University, said that recent developments suggest that we will soon be able to treat religious fundamentalism and other forms of ideological beliefs potentially harmful to society as a form of mental illness. She made the assertion during a talk at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday. She said that radicalizing ideologies may soon be viewed not as being of personal choice or free will but as a category of mental disorder. She said new developments in neuroscience could make it possible to consider extremists as people with mental illness rather than criminals. She told The Times of London: “One Read More ›

Researcher faked dozens of heart cell experiments

From The Scientist: A former scientist at the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago made up more than 70 experiments on heart cells, according to the Office of Research Integrity. According to his LinkedIn profile, Malhotra worked at an Ann Arbor, Michigan–based microscopy company called PicoCal and is now serving as cardiovascular and metabolic consultant in the greater Boston area. He told the ORI that he does not plan to apply for any US Public Health Service funding. If he should do so in the next five years, his work will be supervised and he will be required to provide biannual reports to verify the legitimacy of his research, according to the ORI summary. More. Yawn. Either abolish Read More ›

Research frontiers: The patients whose cancer just dies

From Gareth Cook at New York Times: Grace’s case became the subject of intense scientific scrutiny. How could such a notoriously recalcitrant cancer simply collapse? Why had she alone responded so extremely? Nobody was claiming that she was cured. But by the end of 2011, Grace felt this much was sure: Having asked for a sign, she had become a walking miracle. What happened to Grace is sometimes called by another biblical name: the Lazarus effect, after the story in which Jesus stands outside the tomb of Lazarus of Bethany and summons him back to life. Many veteran oncologists have seen cases like Grace’s, and the stories of these unlikely recoveries, shared online or by word of mouth, have become Read More ›

Link between single genes and diseases questioned

From The Scientist: Many patients with genetic variations linked to cardiac disorders do not exhibit any symptoms, raising concerns about the validity of incidental findings of genetic tests. … “Over the last decade, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified hundreds of new genetic variations, largely single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that might serve as biomarkers for many common conditions,” Maine physician William Gregory Feero, an associate editor at JAMA, wrote in an accompanying editorial. “In general, these account for little in the variance of disease, and the predictive value of such SNPs has been largely disappointing.” More. See also: There’s a gene for that… or is there? Follow UD News at Twitter!