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Duke University’s stem cell program for autism: The dark(er) side of quackademic medicine

Despite a lack of evidence Duke University is all-in on stem cells for autism, thanks to a billionaire benefactor and a Panama stem cell clinic. This is the dark(er) side of quackademic medicine.

And now for something completely different…autism quackery. Given that discussions of COVID-19 science, pseudoscience, denialism, and grift have so thoroughly dominated this blog, I thought it would be nice to focus on a topic that has been relevant to this blog for many years and is utterly unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic. (I know, right? It’s hard to believe!) It is, however, just as horrifying in its own way, as it involves what appear to be some very questionable activities by researchers at Duke University. Paul Knoepfler pointed me to this issue on Twitter:

Let me delve into this story. I’ve often bemoaned the infiltration of what I like to refer to as “quackademic medicine” in medical academia. It’s true that I did not coin the term “quackademic medicine” (Dr. R. W. Donnell did) but I did adopt it and popularize it to the point where many mistakenly think that I coined the phrase. In brief, quackademic medicine is a term to describe the increasing study and adoption of unscientific and pseudoscientific medicine in medical academia, mainly medical schools and academic medical centers. It’s gotten so bad that even my medical alma mater, the University of Michigan, the school where I proudly earned my MD, now features acupuncture, naturopathy, and even anthroposophic medicine. The Department of Family Medicine there even invited a prominent homeopath to give grand rounds on his field! It even indoctrinates residents into the the quackery of “integrative medicine.” I pick on U. of M. because the embrace of quackery by some of its pains me deeply, but I could easily rattle off at least a dozen other examples without even pausing to take a breath, and then there’s the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH), which is currently run by an acupuncture believer.

As bad as the embrace of naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, and even reiki and homeopathy by some institutions that would normally be expected to be bastions of science-based medicine is, there is an even darker side to quackademic medicine. I’m referring to when researchers and universities team up with companies selling outright quackery, such as when St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Cincinnati took money from dōTERRA, a company selling essential oils, to start a center for “integrative oncology,” for example. Unfortunately, what Dr. Knoepfler describes at Duke looks even worse than that:

There is a puzzle when it comes to the controversial idea of using cord blood for autism, because two of the strongest proponents are the autism cord blood program at Duke and for-profit, unproven stem cell clinics. On first glance it seemed like this was a bit of an odd couple to me.

The links between the Duke autism program and one particular Panamanian stem cell clinic called generically enough “The Stem Cell Institute” appear to go beyond just their enthusiasm about cord blood for autism.

Those apparent connections involve a mega-donor who has given a vast sum perhaps as high as $10s of millions to Duke’s autism cord blood group. Furthermore, The Stem Cell Institute says the donor and people in his circle have also been their customers. The clinic also makes another particularly startling claim I go into later in the past.

As I’ve described more times than I can remember, bogus stem cell therapies are a particularly favorite form of autism quackery. Indeed, long time readers might remember the time twelve years ago that I wrote about Kent Heckenlively and how he took his severely autistic daughter to Costa Rica for “stem cell therapies” involving injecting “stem cells” directly into her cerebrospinal fluid and even borrowed $15,000 from her grandparents to do it. Indeed, I’ve even written about Duke University’s ethically dodgy “pay-to-play” clinical trials of cord blood stem cells for autism, noting that the Stem Cell Institute was the single largest recipient of money from patients who crowdfunded their treatments. (Northwestern University was another culprit doing this.)

Dr. Knoepfler notes that investigators in Duke’s autism program, led by Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, still share major enthusiasm for stem cell therapy using umbilical cord blood for autism, even though their clinical trials despite a negative phase II randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of umbilical cord blood for autism that showed no improvement in socialization skills or reduced autism symptoms. Other clinical trials also show no benefit. (Why anyone is doing these ethically problematic trials anymore is beyond me.)

Despite that resoundingly negative study, these Duke researchers want to bravely paddle up the river of pseudoscience, apparently rationalizing that they need to use more stem cells, rather than just cord blood:

Remarkably the Duke team has subsequently begun not one but two more new, related trials.

The first seems focused specifically on lab-amplified cord blood stem cells for kids with autism and the second is for young adults with autism.

How can they still be so enthusiastic?

I don’t know.

There always seems to be some rationalization to keep them going.

Things like this pop up, “If only we had designed our trial differently and excluded some patients, we would have seen benefit”, and so on. Maybe now they think that instead of cord blood it’ll be better to use lab-grown cord stem cells?

It feels to me like they just can’t let go of their idea that cord cells must help autism despite the data generally saying otherwise so far both from their own and other trials.

The first trial opened to accrual on October 1; the second is expected to open this month.

The Stem Cell Institute, located in Panama, is clearly a quack stem cell clinic. Its website advertises stem cells to treat autism, cerebral palsy, heart failure, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injury, and autoimmune diseases, complete with very little actual science but a whole lot of testimonials. Its founder, Neil Riordan, has shown up with Mel Gibson on the Joe Rogan Experience (as has a Stem Cell Institute patient, welterweight champion Kamuru Usman) to tout his snake oil.

As an aside, in other marketing, Ozzie Osbourne also went to the Stem Cell Institute for treatment for Parkinson’s disease:

Now here’s where the connection I was talking about comes in:

As I’ve tried to learn more about all of this over the years, I found that the Panama stem cell clinic often kept popping up in a parallel way to the Duke Autism Program on the web with different searches. Some patients mention both.

More concretely, Duke has reportedly received more than USD $10 million (media reports range from $15 million to $26 million or even $40 million) for its autism research from a philanthropic organization called the Marcus Foundation, which also has connections to The Stem Cell Institute clinic in Panama, at least according to the clinic. The Marcus Foundation is led by Home Depot founder and billionaire, Bernie Marcus.

Bernie Marcus, besides being a billionaire, is a believer in stem cell treatments and has been a patient at the Stem Cell Institute. There’s even a story about it in the News section of the Stem Cell Institute’s website:

Bernie Marcus, cofounder of Home Depot and the company’s first CEO, suffered from bronchiectasis, a chronic lung condition that caused him to have difficulty, especially when public speaking. As a prominent businessman and active philanthropist, Bernie is a sought-after speaker. When his condition worsened and interfered with his speaking ability, he knew something had to be done. “I would get hoarse and cough ten to fifteen times every hour,” he said. “It was difficult to handle and progressively getting worse.” He went to the nation’s top respiratory hospital—National Jewish Health—where the doctors told him he would have to take antibiotics for two years to address the bacterial infection in his lungs. This treatment would do a number on his digestion, however, so he sought an alternative.

His physician recommended that he try stem cell treatment in Panama. Another good friend of Bernie’s had already been down to Panama to treat a stomach disorder that completely cleared up, so he felt comfortable with the recommendation.

Bernie was treated with stem cells and shortly thereafter stopped coughing and was able to return to his work. “I was able to go back to public speaking without embarrassing myself,” he said.

The story even claims that Marcus brought his wife, who has severe osteoarthritis of both knees and needs bilateral knee replacements, to Panama for stem cell treatments and claims that she is without pain now.

So we’ve established that the Marcus Foundation, which was founded by a billionaire who believes in unproven stem cell treatments that are basically quackery, has donated tens of millions of dollars to Duke to research cord blood and now stem cell treatments for autism. As Dr. Knoepfler notes, now that cord blood therapies have resoundingly failed in Duke’s phase II clinical trial, Duke researchers are moving on to treatments based on growing stem cells in a lab to infuse into patients, treatments much more like what the Stem Cell Institute claims that it is doing. (I always say “claims” with respect to what stem cell clinics like the Stem Cell Institute say they are doing, because in many cases it is not at all clear to me that they are actually correctly isolating and expanding the needed stem cell populations.) That’s bad enough. Although it’s certainly not illegal to seek donations from a foundation that clearly promotes dubious stem cell therapies, it should raise many red flags ethically to any researcher looking at science-based therapies based on stem cells. After all, the connection between Marcus and Riordan appears real, unless Riordan is lying about it, which seems unlikely, and the Stem Cell Institute is selling stem cell snake oil.

There is also this photo on the Stem Cell Institute’s Facebook page:

Here’s where it really gets dicey. As Dr. Knoepfler describes, it appears that Dr. Riordan is one of the scientific reviewers of grant applications to the Marcus Foundation and that he reviewed Duke University’s grant application. In a response to an article critical of Duke University’s stem cell trials for autism, Dr. Riordan himself did a sort of “Q&A” about the article and questions raised. I’m going to quote a bit more than what Dr. Knoepfler quoted:

13. Did you collaborate with any researchers from Duke when designing this study? Have you collaborated with researchers at Duke in any way?

I know Dr. Kurtzberg at Duke. Bernie Marcus, who funded the Duke trials, has been a patient in Panama (public information) and saw children with autism benefitting from treatment with umbilical MSCs first hand. I was asked to review the Duke proposal for the Marcus Foundation and was at the Foundation Board meeting that led to the funding.

So, basically, it sounds as though Dr. Riordan is basically bragging about having steered some of that sweet, sweet Marcus Foundation cash to Dr. Kurtzberg and Duke University. It goes beyond that, though:

14. Do you have plans for follow-up studies, and if so, what are the goals of those studies? If you have a specific study underway now, how many children do you plan to recruit?

There is currently no follow-up study in Panama underway. We do have plans for future studies in the U.S. but there is no timeline as of yet.

“We” have plans for future studies in the US? What does this mean? Whom does Dr. Riordan mean by “we”? It could be that he means the Riordan Medical Institute, located in Texas. Or does he mean Duke University? Or both? Inquiring minds want to know!

It also turns out, unsurprisingly, that Bernie Marcus is into more quackery than just stem cell quackery and has long been using his fortune to support and promote quackademic medicine. Here’s Marcus himself in an interview:

Yes. I have a particular doctor who is an integrative medicine doctor. He has used herbs. He has used massage. He has used chiropractic, and he has taken care of my family for well over 20 years. And I have watched the things that he does, and I have watched the fact that he could give us herbs instead of medicines—medicines where we always had a serious reaction, medicines that in fact could be dangerous in some situations. And instead of that, he gave us simple remedies that worked for us.

And I can tell you that some of them were exotic. Some of them were like umbilical cord stem cells, heavy doses of vitamin C, which he uses for cancer patients, that we know anecdotally alleviates some of the side effects of chemotherapy—losing the hair, the energy, the appetite, et cetera, et cetera. And it has been used by holistic medicine/integrative doctors for the last 15–20 years. And medicine turns its nose up at it, even though it is a vitamin and it goes in and out of the body, it is very, very hard to sell to anybody.

Fortunately, we now have some rigorous clinical trials going on at leading institutions, hopefully to prove this effect, and have the data available for others to use. That is what integrative medicine is. It is trying different, non-traditional ways of dealing with ailments that people have—you might call it different strokes for different folks.


So I have experienced the value of integrative medicine myself, and I am a great believer in it. We helped open this clinic at Jefferson, and hopefully we are going to prove this. I think the other thing that will happen is that medical students are going to be exposed to it, which I think is very important—that they do not have blinders on their eyes that most medical doctors have when it comes to these kinds of nutrients. For most doctors, if it is not taught in medical school, it is not kosher. So I think it is going to have a very, very important effect on medicine in the future.

Unsurprisingly, rare is the actual rigorous clinical trial that actually shows benefit from these “alternative” and “integrative” treatments. Also, how is “stem cell therapy” in any way “integrative” or “alternative,” other than in the sense that it is unproven, except for a handful of indications, and that there are a huge number of quack clinics out there profiting from it?

Duke University Marcus Center for Cellular Cures

Lack of evidence aside, there’s a center for “integrative medicine” named after him at Jefferson University, after the Marcus Foundation donated a $20 million grant to the university to form the first full department of “integrative medicine” in a major academic medical center, after having previously donated $25 million to integrative medicine projects including the creation of the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health, which offers “functional medicine,” a make-it-up-as-you-go-along “specialty” that relies on massive overtesting and overtreatment, high dose intravenous vitamin C, “restorative” micronutrients, and more. Meanwhile, at Duke, in 2018 a Marcus Foundation donation led to the founding of the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures (“cures”?), which is dedicated to—you guessed it!—stem cell-related treatments and “cures” for autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders:

The new Marcus Center will focus on four areas:
  • Clinical trials to develop and evaluate cellular and tissue-based therapies;
  • Learning to harness the body’s own mechanisms used for cellular repair;
  • Manufacturing and delivery of cells, tissues, and biomaterials;
  • Creation of non-invasive imaging to monitor cell distribution and function inside the body.
“This center, enabled by the generosity of The Marcus Foundation, will allow us to bring cellular therapies into 21st century medicine,” said Dr. Kurtzberg. “It represents the culmination of over 3 decades of work at Duke in transplantation and cellular biology, and it will be a catalyst to continue to accelerate the translation of these discoveries into the clinic.”

Dawson noted, “There currently are no FDA-approved biomedical treatments for autism. Our goal is to develop effective treatments that can significantly improve outcomes for individuals with autism and other developmental disorders.”

Bellamkonda added, “Duke engineers are excited to be a part of the new Marcus Center and will help develop novel technologies for cell manufacturing and scale-up, co-transplantation biomaterials designed to enhance cell survival and phenotypic stability, and novel non-invasive imaging techniques to monitor and optimize cell therapies and cures.”

All of this is well and good as far as the development of new techniques to harvest, isolate, and grow stem cells goes, but there isn’t any good evidence that autism is treatable with stem cells. It’s not even very biologically plausible, given that the assumption here is that, if you inject stem cells into the blood or the cerebrospinal fluid, they will somehow know where to go and what to do. Truly, stem cells are magic! Also, mostly unrecognized, the very assumption that stem cells can somehow “fix” autism rests on an unspoken premise that autism is some kind of brain “damage,” given that stem cells are generally assumed to be able to repair and regenerate damaged organs. No wonder antivaxxers and proponents of “autism biomed” quackery love stem cell treatments for autism.

I said at the beginning of my post that this alliance between Duke University researchers and the Stem Cell Clinic represents the “dark side” of quackademic medicine. Basically, through its hard-to-find ties to the Stem Cell Institute Duke University has sullied its good name by getting into bed with stem cell quacks like Neil Riordan. It’s all fun and games (and easy to laugh at and off) when academic medical centers embrace, for example, the faith healing that is reiki. It’s not so funny any more when they start taking money from believers in quackery to run scientifically dubious clinical trials of that quackery and even set up centers dedicated to dubious treatments. Real children could end up being hurt.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

44 replies on “Duke University’s stem cell program for autism: The dark(er) side of quackademic medicine”

Sounds like Bernie Marcus had anxiety about public speaking. A common condition and occasionally can occur even after many years of successful speaking. Similar to stage fright that can affect accomplished actors at any time. The stem cell treatment, if he believed it would help, although doing nothing physically, would have calmed his anxiety and hey presto, no more nervous coughing.

Frankly he just sounds impatient. “Here’s a perfectly standard treatment for your condition, but it will take work and time and won’t be very nice.”
“No, I will have the extremely questionable treatment with no actual mechanism of action!”

Being really rich doesn’t necessarily buy you better treatment, just more of it.


Bronchiectasis is not a condition caused by stress, in fact most people with it are children who have Cystic Fibrosis. And the rest are older people around 75 and older whose lungs are degrading …….

As for stem cells curing the condition, I have no idea. However, there have been cases where if the patient believes a treatment will work, then it does. It is called the Placebo Effect…..

Aelxa, Although bronchiectasis is not caused by stress, public speaking can be stressful. It is possible that that with his bronchiectasis a small amount of stress could make him cough. Remove that stress and I think that was why he was cured not the stem cells.

This is why we can’t have nice things. Literally. There are real and genuine and scientific studies underway for using stem cells and immunotherapy and gene therapy to treat diseases and conditions. But they’re totally swamped and overshadowed by the quackery and frankly BS that these con artists are selling.

I went to a regional conference for gene therapy, stem cells and immunotherapy. I was literally the only person at the event who had an FDA-approved treatment. (There are two other related treatments but they were not at this event.) Everyone presented fascinating and exciting data, but none of it was even Phase 2. Most was still in early pre-clinical.

And now money that could be spent forwarding the work of these researchers is being siphoned off and wasted on a quack clinic?

At the beginning of the conference I went to all attendees signed a pledge that we would not send any patient to these quack clinics or have anything to do with them. Because they are such a problem and they are hurting people.

Money talks, physicians walk. Evidence based medicine is underwritten by Big Pharma. It prevents or discourages the off label medicine prescription and is used to justify the high cost of medicine.. We know little of autism. It is most likely a syndrome with multiple etiologies and not a disease in which there is a single etiology. For generations we were taught that adult brain cells do not proliferate. this was at truism, although it made the question of brain tumors impossible to answer. Now we know they do have proliferative capacity. For generations were taught that the blood brain barrier prevents communication between the peripheral and central immune systems. Now we know there is active communication. For generations we were taught that “GI related distress” was in your head. Now we know there is active communication between the gut and the brain. For generations we were taught about autoimmune diseases. Now we know an essential component of many, if not all, is due bacterial antigens leaking out of the gut and initiating an autoimmune reaction.

So before we chalk up many things to pseudoscience we need to first acknowledge that medicine promotes many things on which there is no scientific basis, except “that’s the way things have always been done and that’s the way we taught’. This is known as the Semmelweiss Effect.

The Big Short, in quoting Mark Twain sums it up the best: It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Science by its nature questions what is transmitted as knowledge and demand that that transmission stand up against testing.

It is occurred to you that experimental therapy may not work ? Would you buy an experimental car ? And stem cell therapy rakes in really good money, as Duke University deal shows.
Brains tumors are cured. Neural cells not undergoing mitosis is a separate thing.
Testing means clinical trial, not website testimony

As to your statement “would you buy an experimental car?’ well thousands of people buy a tesla , expecting the ‘auto pilot’ to drive them to their destination.

@ Scott Testa is not an experimental car, it has an electric motor. Electric motors have been around for hundred years, What about a car with perpetuum mobile ? Would you say that that auto industry is trying to prevent new ideas.


Did you bother noticing Scott said Tesla was an experimental car because people were “expecting the autopilot to drive them to their destination”.

It is the auto-pilot function that makes the Tesla “experimental”, not the electric motor.

Autopilots are not experimental either. They have been around long time, too. Injecting stem cells and believing that they somehow cure everything is experimental. And you noticed that Orac wrote about autism. Autism is not caused by damaged brain cells to be replaced by stem cells.

Actually, an active part of training new physicians is ALWAYS to challenge the “status quo.” I always ask: “Do you need that lab?” Lots of times the answer is something about how it is always ordered in this situation. Next question: “Will it change your management?”

The 1950’s days of “Dr. Stiffbritches, one might have seen “Dr. Stiffbritches knows all so do it his way.” That doesn’t really occur day to day anymore…

Now-on to this idea that we promote “many things on which there is no scientific basis.” Got any examples? Real world ones, not baloney you read or heard? Almost everything we do day in, day out is evidence based. I can’t remember the last time I did anything that had no scientific basis. In fact, I can’t remember anyone around me doing anything that had no basis in science with the possible exception of another DO I know who does a lot of cranial OMT.

MedicalYeti-‘ almost everything we do day in, day out is evidence based’ is an incorrect generalization if thinking is considered as ‘doing’ something. Orac’s blog and a great deal elsewhere demonstrates this to be completely untrue.

@ Medical Yeti:

Thank you for providing real world glimpses into SBM
I survey a group of anti-vaxxers/ woo-meisters who paint a luridly unrealistic picture of what doctors do and believe that that is , as you say, most likely concocted by people with ulterior motives and vivid imaginations…
actually, not all that imaginative because their tropes seem to be lifted from bad 1950s films and novels-
–One involves how doctors talk down to mothers ( see Age of Autism, Thinking Moms’ Revolution, various vitamin salesmen) which is seriously outdated because, these days, many women have entered the field- so do they talk down to themselves?
–Another trope is the stealthy doctor ( or nurse) who secretly/ or without permission, vaccinates a child. or vaccinates them multiple times. Like this happens all the time!
–Or how “vaccine injury” is totally doctors.

I think that their common responses illustrate that learning is indeed going on in the anti-vax social media subculture BUT not in a good way.

. .

“For generations we were taught that “GI related distress” was in your head. Now we know there is active communication between the gut and the brain.”

That makes no sense. It’s even contradictory. Earlier generations knew that neurological changes could affect any part of the body. Earlier generations knew that pain in the body caused neurological changes.

What do you think nerves and hormones are for if not “active communication?”

To repeat a Ben Goldacre quote that has been used a number of times by Orac himself since the Scienceblogs days:

Flaws in aircraft design do not prove the existence of magic carpets.

Sure, there’s a lot we don’t know about what autism is. We know a fair bit about what it isn’t, though, through previous tests and process of elimination. And we can be pretty certain that it isn’t localized damage of the sort that could be fixed with stem cells.

(My understanding is that there’s some suspicion that there’s a different connection threshold level involved, though it’s not a large difference? Thing is, situations like that tend to happen based on the chemical environment where the cells grow, so the new stem cells would be growing in the same environment, which means they’d likely have the same ‘problem’. With deliberate scare quotes around the ‘problem’.)

Honestly, this is the sort of treatment where ‘no effect’ is one of the best possible results. Given that dodgy stem cell treatments have resulted in tumour-like growths in people, and this is going into the brain. The chances of it doing anything positive are almost non-existent, it probably won’t do anything, it make change the person’s thought patterns but probably not in the way expected, and there’s a non-zero chance of causing a brain tumour, especially at places that aren’t doing proper testing.

You clearly did not read my comment where I talked about the work that is being done, right now, with stem cells.
Have you even looked at the literature? Here’s a journal: Cytotherapy. Try just browsing the abstracts to see what the actual state of the art is.

You will see one of the big topics is learning how to control what kind of cells the stem cells become when they are implanted. Sure, you could go sticking MSC in some poor kid’s brain, but if they turn into bone cells, well, you sure haven’t made anything better have you?

You know what you sounds like, Pathcoin? You sound like those people back in the 1950’s who thought there would be a little nuclear reactor in every home. They only saw the possibilities and not the danger, because they didn’t actually understand the science.


Why should they pay attention to you, when Orac just called stem cell use “quackery”?

Why don’t you point this out to Orac instead of the people who take everything he writes as the gospel “Truth”.

You might point out to Jenora that her claim that stem cell use always gives “a non-zero chance of causing a brain tumour” is total BS.

“It prevents or discourages the off label medicine prescription and is used to justify the high cost of medicine.” This almost made this french reader laugh out loud. Since the Mediator debacle, we are very wary of off label use, a Big Pharma tool among others.

Also, your “that’s the way things have always been done and that’s the way we taught” completely ignores the on-going and regularly updated work on guidelines on autism therapies in several countries. Because they are aware that they have to keep professionnals updated on best practices in order to improve outcomes for autistic citizens.

I’m following some of these closed (but clearly poorly screened since they let me in) stem cell/autism groups on social media is horrifying enough. Going to Mexico for intranasal stem cell “treatments” seems popular (though those pages are actually pushed by the owners of the clinics). I have started seeing more posts about going to Panama for “treatment” instead. It’s bad enough to see videos online of these children being help down to squirt stem cells (if they even are that…and who knows what else…and Naegleria something I would worry about to since it’s intranasal) up their nose, but knowing that Panama represents even more dangerous IV/intrathecal injections up these children that has the backing/affiliation of a renowned US research institution is disgusting.

Here’s a paper in mice that states:

At 2 h after intranasal delivery in immunodeficient mice, the labeled cells were found under the olfactory epithelium, crossing the cribriform plate adjacent to the fila olfactoria, and associated with the meninges of the olfactory bulb. At all times, the cells were separate from actual nerve tracts; this location is consistent with them being in the subarachnoid space (SAS) and its extensions through the cribriform plate into the nasal mucosa. In their location under the olfactory epithelium, they appear to be within an expansion of a potential space adjacent to the turbinate bone periosteum. Therefore, intranasally administered stem cells appear to cross the olfactory epithelium, enter a space adjacent to the periosteum of the turbinate bones, and then enter the SAS via its extensions adjacent to the fila olfactoria as they cross the cribriform plate.

( )

So mesenchymal stem cells in mice can get into the olfactory bulb area, but that’s still a huge jump to state “hey, we can do this to your child and decrease his autism symptoms”.

Although you think that it is obvious that stem cells can’t cure autism, there are many people that do not. Persuading these people through failed clinical trials (scientific experiments) is more effective and “scientific” than persuading them through debate or argumentation. The “scientific method” was described as “testing falsifiable hypotheses through experiment”.
It has worked better than following Greek philosophers. Clinical trials do not have to have a good probability of success to be a good use of society’s resources. These trials could have been funded by “skeptic” who was eager to discredit the Riordan clinic. Would you have praised this person, who funded the same scientific research as Marcus?

But here’s the thing. Before you do a clinical trial you must show that there is real likelihood that the treatment will work. That means lots and lots of pre-clinical data and a well understood mechanism of action.

If you don’t have that, have real solid data on why this will make a positive change, you’re not allowed to do human trials; it’s unethical and won’t pass the ethics board. And the people who would be the subjects of this trial wouldn’t be healthy adults, they would be vulnerable children. If you want to do any kind of intervention or study on vulnerable children you have to have a rock-solid case for benefit before any ethics board would give you the go-ahead.

Also, there are tons of papers on stem cell treatments that haven’t worked. There are several journals of stem cells. There is a mountain of data on what hasn’t works and what might work. It’s not just a few people standing around saying “no”.

You cannot persuade autism to go away, even if you can persuade some people to use quack therapies. Falsifiable scientific hypothesis in this case is of course that stem cells cure autism. (Cause of autism is another thing. Btw, is mainly genetic. There are lots of differences in the brain. Destruction of cells in not one of them:)
Idea of clinical trial is that you test a thing before you use it. What is a problem with that ?

These trials could have been funded by “skeptic”

Err, no.
Well, they can, but they shouldn’t.
That’s a reversal of the burden of proof.
It’s up to the proponents of a new action to do the hard work of proving their idea may work.

This is nothing new. Look at how thoroughly the advocacy of circumcision has been accepted across the board by the medical industry. Snake-oil claims of benefits, flawed tests claiming efficacy, no thought of damage resulting to victims’ psychology, marriage, life satisfaction, all of which impinge on society.

I moved back to Ohio, and now I need to find an intactivist for my primary care physician. If they can’t get circumcision right, how can I trust them for advice on any other medical matter?

Funny and underrated movie. The bit about male genital mutilation had me rolling. I wonder if Abraham would be considered a paranoid schizo by todays criteria.


Hey, when my son was born I said “No” to a circumcision, but my husband insisted on it. Guess who won, not the mother whose body the kid came out of.

My husband insisted on it because of his experiences in Vietnam, the uncircumcised guys got nasty fungal infections apparently. I still said “No” but the doctor did what my husband wanted.

I mean guys can be taught to wash themselves well each day, can’t they?

I never did much like Home Depot–now I know I’ll stick with my local hardware store.

Interestingly, it’s not called Sputnik VI

The vaccine, dubbed EpiVacCorona, is said to be a synthetic peptide-based vaccine, which uses fragments of the pandemic virus
It was developed by Vector State Virology and Biotechnology Center, a former Soviet bioweapons research lab.

— This is former gulag, now a clinic for research and treatment of Pussy Riot-like persons.

— This is former Pripyat, now a wildlife refuge.

— This is former Kremlin.

In fairness, if there are horror stories of Sputnik V, they’ve not been on CNN yet.

Who is the IRB responsible for oversight of these studies? I have trouble seeing an institution as prestigious as Duke not requiring studies done under its auspices to go through its in-house IRB, regardless of approval from outside IRBs.

Whatever the case, it’s worrying that an IRB is so careless as to let these studies through. For an IRB committee to be able to grant approval for these studies, it needs a member who has a primarily scientific background, a member who is otherwise unaffiliated with the institution, and a member who is experienced in working with children (not necessarily distinct people). What other unethical studies have they let through while they are asleep on the watch?

cant we get back to cancer or some thing ….the whole thing is a lost cause ….no winners in the vaxo talks might go on for a life time … change of subject please boring?? yes folks happy bob from oz …eat more edibles & camm butter…cheers ..8

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