Sunday, August 3, 2014

Skull-blogging: face changing now, guernsey cow edition

Here at Riddled Research Laboratory we are punctilious to the point of pedantry about mad-science ethics. We cannot countenance any violation of the three Golden Rules of Research:

1. Photoshopped image manipulation of results has no place in scientific publication, other than to embellish photographs of cats with agrammatical observations with droll misspellings.

2. Never promise curative benefits from fermented dairy products, for this will only inspire skeptical bloggers to respond with post titles like "Yogurt to be Kidding".
Worst protective gear EVAH
3. We brook no replacement for the time-honoured white lab-coat -- signifier of tradition and of scholarly probity. Particularly not the post-modern travesty which the McGravitas Laboratory has tried to foist on the mad-scientist world.

Then there is that talk of "Not to go on all-fours" and "Not to suck up Drink", but those are more like loose guidelines, whatever some may say about "The Law".

So it was a disappointment to find Dr Marco Ruggiero (of Florence) transgressing not one, not three, but two of these rules. First there was his pro-biotic yogurt from Guernsey, promoted as a floor-wax and a topping a cure for cancers... for chronic fatigue syndrome... and for viral infections, up to and including HIV. It appears that all these conditions elevate blood levels of an enzyme called 'nagalase' (presumably named after the Nāga ophidian spirits and denoting some form of 'snake oil'), while the yogurt -- or one ingredient thereof, with the camel-case codename GcMAF -- lowers these levels. I am just surprised that Lyme Disease and Morgellons were omitted from the lists of conditions responding to GcMAF.

One of the papers reporting cancer cures from GcMAF has just been depublished, for making everything up (it turns out that the secret of making cancer go away is to be the person who determines whether cancer was present in the first place, by looking for nagalase in a client's blood). This has not deterred Dr Ruggiero and his chain of Swiss clinics from advertising for the terminal-cancer medical-tourism trade. He knows that his own triumphant publications will not disappear from the literature, for they were squeezed out through a mockademic vanity press which only retracts papers if the cheques don't clear.

The 'curing AIDS' aspect is ferrous, or ferric, or some other form of ironic... for Ruggiero first came to the attention of the mad-science world by denying that AIDS is viral in nature. He and Stefania Pacini attained the rare accolade of having an AIDS-denialist paper yanked for excessive flakiness from that wretched hive of scum and villainy, Medical Hypotheses. Subsequent repercussions included the even more difficult feat of having his tenure reviewed by an Italian university.

The thing about GMO dairy medicine is that it's a gateway drug. Start meddling with Kumis, and before you know it you're bio-engineering a nanny-goat / drinking-horn combination for drinking the fermented milk straight from the source.

Moving right along... here is Offense #2, published in a Frontiers journal:

Bradstreet, Pacini and Ruggiero are all about using transcranial ultrasound scans to diagnose autism.
Photoshop processing is a crucial part of the process, to control lightness and contrast in scans of the subjects' cortices (i.e. the level of mottling), and to add circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each 8×10 B&W glossy picture.
Apparently the autistic subjects displayed a particular level of mottling in their adjusted scans compared to their neurotypical siblings, as scored totes objectively on a 4-point Cortical Dysplasia scale.
[for definitions of the criteria for locating an image along this scale, see "Underpants Gnomes, Phase 2"]

Now the first author here, Jeff Bradstreet, has been a serial recipient of skepticism from Respectful Insolence. His day job consists of curing autism. To that effect he has variously sold secretin, chelation therapy, "magnetoresonant therapy", intravenous immunogoblin, and several forms of shonky stem-cell treatment. Some would find it ironic for him to be ascribing the condition he cures to a hard-wired hardware feature of neural architecture (there are no "after cure" sonograms in the paper), but this seems to be Irony Day.

Sadly, the website for Emcell -- Bradstreet's Ukraine-based supplier of embryonic stem-cell injections -- is currently in abeyance. But no matter, he has moved on to a new infallible therapy for autism. If you are all agog to learn the details, then bate your breath no longer, for it is Ruggiero's GcMAF yogurt smoothies. And thus the circle closes!!

"What do you call a heterocyclic porphyrin ring containing a Fe2+ ion in the centre?" asked Another Kiwi.

"A heme group?" I said.

"A ferrous wheel," AK vouchsafed.
Breaking ground: Linked to
increased risk of pterodactyls
In bonus circle-closing developments, Frontiers recently published a Commentary paper to bring the Transcranial Ultrascan article to the attention of anyone who missed it in January, and lauding the ground-breaking pioneering quality of Bradstreet and Ruggiero. The author, Dario Siniscalco, declared in a Conflict-of-Interest statement that
The research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Of the Commentary's four reviewers,
Dr Sapone declares that, despite having collaborated with the authors, the review process was handled objectively.
I don’t know what we can infer from the absence of such a declaration from the two other reviewers (Antonucci and Cirillo) who also co-author regularly with Siniscalco (and Bradstreet).

Sadly, Siniscalco neglected to state that he was one of the reviewers of the paper he is now praising; nor that he has collaborated with Bradstreet on numerous studies* with commercial applications (i.e. they relate to Bradstreet’s income stream). Last year he spoke at a GcMAF conference sponsored by one of Ruggiero's companies. Perhaps his construing skills need practice.
* “Mesenchymal stem cells in treating autism”; “Therapeutic role of hematopoietic stem cells in autism spectrum disorder-related inflammation”; “Perspectives on the Use of Stem Cells for Autism Treatment”; “The in vitro GcMAF effects on endocannabinoid system transcriptionomics, receptor formation, and cell activity of autism-derived macrophages”


Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

It appears that all these conditions elevate blood levels of an enzyme called 'nagalase' (presumably named after the Nāga ophidian spirits and denoting some form of 'snake oil')

We're not worthy!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

"Needs Slapping" I would tag, if I had such a tag. I hear they are spendy.

Smut Clyde said...

The post is tagged "Needs slapping". It has always been tagged "Needs slapping".

Helmut Monotreme said...

Really? Scientifically dubious, unethical stem cell therapy as a treatment for autism. Dare I ask if that particular treatment has passed a review board? I mean I understand that autistic spectrum disorders can be scary for parents and challenging (up to debilitating) for those who have them, but it has to be criminal to advocate stem cell therapy for the brain. I can't imagine that anyone's cognitive ability would be improved by a growth of random teratomas in their brain, and that's exactly what they risk with this proposed treatment.

Smut Clyde said...

Dare I ask if that particular treatment has passed a review board?

Checking the Clinical Trials database, I see that Dr Bradstreet registered trials for hyperbaric oxygen in autism treatment (study finished in 2006, no results posted) and "magnetic resonant therapy"* (finished in April, results to be posted Real Soon Now). I do not know whether participants in the study paid the full $11,500 / month price for that treatment.

But with the stem cells, he wasn't pretending that it was a clinical study, so no ethics review were needed. The stem cells were supposedly sourced from embryos by the Ukrainian supplier (don't ask about details), and injected anywhere in the patient's body, the theory being that they would know where they were needed and migrate there. So no physical effects other than maybe a fever as the immune system destroys them.

We're talking about a subculture of "autism cure" in which parents tout the beneficial effects of bleach enemas. "Ethics" and "malpractice" are not familiar concepts there.

* Despite the name Bradstreet used, it is clear from photographs that he was actually using a magnetic *pulse* device, in effect delivering small electric shocks to the frontal lobes. Bradstreet talks about the magnetic fields harmonising cellular function. He really has no feckin' idea what he's doing.

tigris said...

What Substance Labs has been up to

Sirius Lunacy said...

GcMAF backwards gives us F(oisted)A(gain)McG(ravitas)
Coincidence? I think not!

Dora said...

Hi Smut Clyde.
FYI, 2009 Yamamoto's infamous article on GcMAF and HIV eradication has just been retracted:



Smut Clyde said...

Thanks Dora!
RetractionWatch have more.