Welcome to this week’s Schneider Shorts. There will be exciting COVID-19 clinical trials, blood tests for depression, photoshopped plant science, more tea with Professor Seeberger, chocolate diets, amazing cancer cures, and an Italian mystery troll obsessed with me.
Updated on For Better Science
A Cell Press correction was issued for a paper by John Blenis (read about this mTOR researcher here) on 15 February, in the typical shin-kicking, nose-punching, in-your-face farting attitude of that parasitic Elsevier outlet:
“We, the editors of Cell, were contacted by a concerned reader regarding a duplication in Figure 2 of the above paper. Dr. John Blenis, the corresponding author, determined that the error was introduced during revision of the manuscript. In preparing the final version of Figure 2B, the panel showing results for eIF3b was mislabeled as HA (S6K1) lysate. A different exposure of the eIF3b panels published in Figures 2C and 2D was then mistakenly used for eIF3b, resulting in the duplication.The authors no longer have access to the original data for the HA (S6K1) lysate published 16 years ago, and as a consequence, a Correction is not possible. Given the age of the paper and that the duplication does not compromise the conclusions of the paper, based on the information available to us at this time, we believe that no further action is warranted.”
The figures in that paper are actually hilariously fraudulent, but this is probably why Cell published it in the first place. Blenis is on the left-hand of this collage, toasting to more mTOR data fudgery with mTORman David Sabatini:
Being a mentor
Two years ago, my reporting about the data manipulations in the papers by the plant physiologist Sally Assmann made the journal The Plant Cell reconsider their choice of the new Editor-in-Chief. All papers, including the one retracted, had the same common lead author: Sona Pandey, PI at the Danforth Plant Science Center. The US research institution announced to investigate, the fact that Pandey still has her lab and there was only one retraction, hints at a whitewashing outcome. Pandey’s motto is: “I find joy in being a mentor. I want to inspire more people to become scientists.” Now a reader flagged two more Pandey papers, one from Assmann’s lab.
A strange Corrigendum was issued to a paper from the lab of the retired plant scientist at UC Riverside, Natasha Raikhel. The strange bit is that the notice corrects one figure, but totally ignores the evidence in another.
Abel Rosado, EunJu Sohn, Georgia Drakakaki, Songqin Pan, Alexandra Swidergal, Yuqing Xiong, Byung-Ho Kang, Ray A Bressan, Natasha V Raikhel Auxin-mediated ribosomal biogenesis regulates vacuolar trafficking in Arabidopsis The Plant Cell (2010) doi: 10.1105/tpc.109.068320
In January 2021, Raikhel announced to me to investigate all PubPeer concerns:
“If we find any mistake we will definitely send a correction to a journal or deal with the issues accordingly.”
You may recall I was banned from Twitter, after a concerted campaign by French Nazis. Now that I’m gone, a mysterious Italian started slandering me with ridiculous accusations of fraud and theft, topped up by antisemitic slurs, in English on Twitter (where I am also equalled to Trump and KKK’s David Duke), and in Italian in the comment section on the blog of Sylvie Coyaud. The accusations are very same in English and in Italian.
It seems, that same person previously trolled my site with similar attacks, celebrating Jan van Deursen suing me. Now thing is, the troll drops various very specific clues to make it look as if my former boss at IFOM in Milan was behind all that, or at least feeding information to the troll. Maybe the troll is a friend, or a lab member who overheard some disparaging gossip. After all, I wrote about that scientist’s friends, especially K Lenhard Rudolph, his IFOM-IEO colleagues, and of course the bully van Deursen (they share a common friend/business partner). Here a sample from Twitter:
“Paladin” is rarely used in English and not in this context, but there is “paladino” in Italian, meaning defender or champion. “Bande” is not an English word. It is likely a mistranslation of Italian “banda“, gang.
The comments on Ocasapiens (in native Italian) use same accusations and, according to the IP address, the same geolocation suppression service (blackoakcomputers.com) as this comment placed on my site:
Here an earlier comment I moderated, recycling old accusations from Milan:
The first part reheats and twists same almost a decade-old stuff (yes, I did submit a paper once without sending the final version to all authors, yes, my ex-boss was lamenting the absence of the impact factor on the new society journal I chose, yet nobody but my ex-boss ever complained about either of that). The second part is completely made up, indicating utter lack of knowledge about anything which happened after my IFOM association ended, e.g. Jungebluth’s lawyer was male.
The IFOM scientist eventually replied to my email and declared:
“this is disgraceful and shouldn’t happen to anybody. Of course, I can reassure you that I have nothing to do with this.“
I hope the mysterious Italian troll who frames innocent IFOM scientists will be found. Surely we both want this, right, dear ex-boss?
LinkedIn and Sauerkraut
Having successfully chased me off Twitter, some far-right COVIDidiots now try same with LinkedIn (here my profile). These people report me for everything they themselves are, because the censorship algorithm works like this.
Two of my recent posts were removed, I received this message:
Your post goes against LinkedIn policies
Your post goes against our policy on misinformation. It has been removed and only you can access it. View your post. In case you’re not familiar with our policy on misinformation, we encourage you to review our Professional Community Policies.
The offending posts went “The intellectual Leaps of Joe Shapiro” plus this link: https://forbetterscience.com/2021/04/13/the-intellectual-leaps-of-joe-shapiro/
“Prof Jean Bousquet’s Sauerkraut Therapy” https://forbetterscience.com/2021/04/07/prof-jean-busquets-sauerkraut-therapy/
It seems, mass-reporting random posts works on LinkedIn also. Nobody even looks at things before censoring them. LinkedIn has eventually reinstalled the first post but educated me that the Sauerkraut one is indeed “misinformation“. They also remove my profile cartoon of myself because someone complained it was not sufficiently “realistic to [my] appearance“. Let’s see how long before this social media platform kicks me out also.
In a way, social media became the silly cartoon version of Stalinist purges, where your online presence gets erased, instead of physical one (although, do you also see the idea of a sci-fi dystopia novel here?). The little underpaid and overworked cogs in the billion dollar system need to liquidate a certain number of “disinformation”, “hatred” or “violence” accounts according to certain keywords, in order to satisfy a quota imposed from above and earn their reward or promotion. Revenge denunciations by the actual perpetrators are most welcome, and are actively encouraged. You don’t even need to beat out a confession: by using the word “COVID-19” I already admitted my guilt.
Buy Professor Seeberger’s COVID-19 teas!
Remember the Max-Planck-Institute director, Prof Dr Peter Seeberger who discovered that artemisia extract teas sold by his own company kill the coronavirus and could prevent COVID-19? I wrote about it before, here.
Seeberger and his former postdoc and start-up co-founder, Kerry Gilmore, now continued their artemisia research, determined to save the world from the pandemic. They now dumped the Covid-Organics drink (once promoted by the president of Madagascar) onto their cell cultures, to compare with their own proprietary ArtemiTea infusion. Here is the result:
Chuanxiong Nie, Jakob Trimpert, Sooyeon Moon, Rainer Haag, Kerry Gilmore, Benedikt B. Kaufer, Peter H. Seeberger In vitro efficacy of Artemisia extracts against SARS-CoV-2 bioRxiv (2021) doi: 10.1101/2021.02.14.431122
“We sought to study the ability of different A. annua and A. afra extracts and the Covid-Organics drink produced in Madagascar to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 and feline coronavirus (FCoV) replication in vitro. Several extracts as well as Covid-Organics inhibit SARS-CoV-2 and FCoV replication at concentrations that did not affect cell viability. It remains unclear whether peak plasma concentrations in humans can reach levels needed to inhibit viral replication following consumption of teas or Covid-Organics. Clinical studies are required to evaluate the utility of these drinks for COVID-19 prevention or treatment in patients.“
This is how much of the drink you need to get an effect:
“The Covid-Organics drink was first concentrated by rotary evaporation and then diluted for the test. As the exact mass concentration was unknown, the inhibitory activity is shown as percentage to the raw drinks (Table 3). The EC50 against SARS-CoV-2 was determined to be 7.73% of raw drink using the plaque reduction assay.“
Does this mean you must drink so much of Covid-Organics or Seeberger’s ArtemiTea infusion that you blood consists to almost 1/10 of the beverage? This is what they want to go into clinical studies with?
Last month, a preprint was posted by an aptly named scientist Yoshitake and colleagues from the Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope in California that mushrooms (specifically the supermarket-standard white button mushroom) can cure COVID-19. Chen et al 2021 fed mice with mushrooms and declared:
“We previously reported that dietary white button mushroom (WBM) antagonized dihydrotestosterone (DHT)-induced androgen receptor (AR) activation and reduced myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) in prostate cancer animal models and patients. The present study on C57BL/6 mice revealed that WBM is a unique food that A) interrupts DHT induced AR-TMPRSS2 expression in putative COVID-19 targeted organs through its AR antagonistic activity and B) attenuates serum pro-inflammatory cytokines which have been implicated in COVID-19 pathogenesis. We hereby propose WBM intake as a potentially low-cost, efficient, and safe dietary intervention to mitigate COVID-19.“
Mushrooms as anti-androgenic COVID-19 cure? Someone tell Bolsonaro!
Elsewhere in California, a clinical trial with 66 non-hospitalised COVID-19 patients has started in UC San Diego to see if random wood fungi (Fomitopsis officinalis and Trametes versicolor) can cure the SARS-CoV2 infection. News coverage:
“The trial, which is enrolling volunteers now, is the first study of its kind authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.
“We think mushrooms may have the ability to reduce the severity of COVID,” said principal investigator Dr. Gordon Saxe. Saxe is a preventive and integrative medicine physician who leads the Krupp Center for Integrative Research at UCSD.”
And of course mushrooms, like the amazing white button, prevent cancer. Again, a very respectable US university, Penn State, published a peer-reviewed systematic review/meta-analysis (Ba et al, Advances in Nutrition, 2021), and issued a press release:
“Overall, these findings provide important evidence for the protective effects of mushrooms against cancer,” said coauthor John Richie, a Penn State Cancer Institute researcher and professor of public health sciences and pharmacology. “Future studies are needed to better pinpoint the mechanisms involved and specific cancers that may be impacted.”
An unhinged anti-mask study was published in Elsevier’s looney bin journal already in November 2020:
Baruch Vainshelboim, Facemasks in the COVID-19 era: A health hypothesis, Medical Hypotheses (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2020.110411
The author declared as his academic affiliation “Cardiology Division, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System/Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, United States” which of course triggered some far-right media in USA. AP investigation showed that both Veterans Affairs and Stanford affiliations were made up. If you think Elsevier is bothered and will remove the fraudulent paper: gosh, you are so naive.
I once predicted fake black market COVID-19 vaccine certificates to be sold in China or Russia, maybe Israel, where unvaccinated people are sanctioned one way or another, but now you can buy these even in Germany, in my vicinity in Frankfurt even.
The whole concept of privileges via vaccine passports may backfire very badly.
Lab Leak Theory
Alina Chan (the one who debunked the pangolin theory of SARS-Cov” origins in a preprint, Chan & Zhan bioRxiv 2020) found something funny.
A June 2020 preprint from China claimed to have discovered a coronavirus “closely related to SARS-CoV-2” in pangolins from Malaysia (Li et al, Pathogenicity, tissue tropism and potential vertical transmission of SARSr-CoV-2 in Malayan pangolins, bioRxiv 2020). Was the Chinese Communist Party right all along? The final paper (Yang et al J, Pathogenicity and transmissibility of a novel respirovirus isolated from a Malayan pangolin, General Virology 2021) identifies that virus as utterly unrelated to coronaviruses, “most closely related to murine respirovirus“. This is the usual level at which the COVID-19 origins research is happening, it’s almost funny.
Depressive blood tests predict suicide
Indiana University seems to have the best scientists. After Xionbing Lu and his wife nanobombed cancer with recycled fluorescent nude mice (read here), his colleague at the Indiana Medical School, the psychiatry professor Alexander Niculescu, also together with his wife (Helen He-Niculescu), announced to predict depression, bipolar disorder and even suicidality via a patented blood test, which he hinted to market via his own company, MindX Sciences. Instead of laughing and pelting Niculescu with rotten tomatoes, Indiana University issued a press release:
“”We have pioneered the area of precision medicine in psychiatry over the last two decades, particularly over the last 10 years. This study represents a current state-of-the-art outcome of our efforts,” said Niculescu. “This is part of our effort to bring psychiatry from the 19th century into the 21st century. To help it become like other contemporary fields such as oncology. Ultimately, the mission is to save and improve lives.” […] “Through this work, we wanted to develop blood tests for depression and for bipolar disorder, to distinguish between the two, and to match people to the right treatments,” said Niculescu.
This is the peer-reviewed paper, it appeared in Molecular Psychiatry, part of Nature Publishing Group. The journal has an impact factor of over 12 and is a fancier and more expensive version of Frontiers, you must be a US-based quack loony to qualify:
H. Le-Niculescu, K. Roseberry, S. S. Gill, D. F. Levey, P. L. Phalen, J. Mullen, A. Williams, S. Bhairo, T. Voegtline, H. Davis, A. Shekhar, S. M. Kurian, A. B. Niculescu. Precision medicine for mood disorders: objective assessment, risk prediction, pharmacogenomics, and repurposed drugs. Molecular Psychiatry, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41380-021-01061-w
“Blood Tests by MindX Sciences (for suicidality, pain, PTSD, depression/bipolar, memory/Alzheimer’s, longevity). [..] Patients can go to a designated blood draw center or a hospital laboratory to get their blood drawn. The tubes are mailed to our laboratory. The test results are sent by MindX Sciences to the physician.“
That being a US study, the “race” of the trial participants was recorded because Americans believe in race medicine. Nick Brown noticed that Niculescu’s three independent testing cohorts, allegedly consisting of utterly different participants, all happened to have exactly 2 Hispanics and 1 mixed “race” participant each. Strange coincidence.
Lose weight with hot chocolate
Everyone knows chocolate cures literally all diseases while making your smart. I wrote about it before, here and here. But did you also know chocolate is a magic superfood to help you lose weight? Science has spoken, from Penn State university:
“Cocoa powder, a popular food ingredient most commonly used in the production of chocolate, is rich in fiber, iron and phytochemicals reported to have positive health benefits, including antioxidant polyphenols and methylxanthines, noted study leader Joshua Lambert, professor of food science in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
“While it is typically considered an indulgence food because of its high sugar and fat content, epidemiological and human-intervention studies have suggested that chocolate consumption is associated with reduced risk of cardio-metabolic diseases including stroke, coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes,” Lambert said. “So, it made sense to investigate whether cocoa consumption had an effect on non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease, which is commonly associated with human obesity.”
For your further perusal, here the Penn State chocolate paper, paywalled:
Mingyao Sun, Yeyi Gu, Shannon L. Glisan, Joshua D.Lambert, Dietary cocoa ameliorates non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and increases markers of antioxidant response and mitochondrial biogenesis in high fat-fed mice, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2021.108618
That Medical Xpress page also links to another recent press release, from Osaka University: “Carob powder found to have anti-obesity effects“. In case you are not into chocolate.
Dr Zheng’s melanoma cure
Massachusetts General Hospital scientists discovered a cure for melanoma. It’s a common diabetes drug. Here the recent press release:
“A new review article published in the journal Trends in Cancer is presenting a promising case for phenformin, an old diabetes drug related to metformin, being repurposed as an adjunct to new immunotherapy cancer treatments. A phase 1 clinical trial is already underway to test the safety of the combination treatment for skin cancer.
Metformin, a common drug prescribed to manage diabetes, is currently the subject of a number of compelling investigations into potential alternate uses, from slowing age-related cognitive decline to possibly even extending a person’s lifespan.”
This is the paper which inspired the phenformin clinical trial:
Hongyun Zhao, Kenneth D.Swanson, Bin Zheng, Therapeutic Repurposing of Biguanides in Cancer, Trends in Cancer (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.trecan.2021.03.001
The single arm clinical trial at the Massachusetts General Hospital is already recruiting. The 40 terminal melanoma patients will be treated with standard therapy of dabrafenib, trametinib and other drugs, topped up with increasing doses of phenformin. There is no control arm without phenformin because science works in mysterious ways.
Btw, regarding the metformin longevity claims, there is this recent debunking review by Hartmut Glossmann and Oliver Lutz.
A last year’s paper from Zhejiang University School of Medicine, China, was pointed out to me by Tiger BB8:
Wang et al Executive function and its relation to anatomical connectome in homosexual and heterosexual men Quantitative Imaging in Medicine and Surgery (2020) DOI: 10.21037/qims-19-821b
From the abstract:
“Fifty-three homosexual and 47 heterosexual males underwent diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neuropsychological assessments. […] The cognitive performance of homosexual men was significantly poorer than their heterosexual counterparts in terms of WCST total correct responses.”
The discussion mentioned:
“The present study has shown that executive function differed between homosexual and heterosexual men, suggesting a link with sexual orientation. However, the overall similarity in global brain architecture was observed between homosexual and heterosexual men, with only reduced connectivity between left PoCG and left SMG, which was also influenced by education. These results indicate new perspectives in understanding the neural basis of male sexual orientation.“
We also learn that “The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine“. The same ethics committee approved another clinical trial by same investigator Shaohua Hu, titled “A study on the effect of oxytocin on sexual orientation in men“, aiming “to research the feature of brain activity and social gender cognition in male homosexuals, and how oxytocin affects them” and funded by the Social Welfare Technology research of Zhejiang Province, but its results were never published. Hu also receives grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, like the one to research the “structure and function of amygdala in heterosexual and homosexual men with FMR1NB gene“. In 2014, Hu gave a lecture at the annual meeting of Chinese Society of Psychiatry, titled “The genetic mechanism of male homosexuality“.
It is amazing how many scientists make hating gay people a rewarding full-day job.
There are many things one could do as bioethicist. One could protest against pseudoscientific bigotry like above, or against patient abuse and unethical experiments. Arthur Caplan at New York University did that once, in the Paolo Macchiarini case, where he demanded retractions of all Macchiarini papers, apparently except those Caplan himself co-authored. But defending the public is boring and earns you neither cash nor media attention, so more recently that bioethicist went on to advocate human SARS-Cov2 challenge trials to get media attention (read here).
The bizarre project tanked in USA and several of its initial organisers jumped ship, but at the Imperial College in UK they are infecting healthy volunteers for the sheer fun of it, sponsored by the UK government. Probably just to stick it to the Europeans with their oppressive medical ethics. Press release from 25 March 2021:
“The team is unable to discuss any further details of the study at this early stage, such as symptoms. It essential to keep the outcomes confidential to maintain the scientific integrity of the study.”
Now also the Oxford University joined the fun. As per press release from 19 April:
“The study will take place in two phases with different participants in each phase. The first phase, which will start in April 2021, will establish the lowest dose of virus which, in approximately 50% of people who have previously been naturally infected, can take hold and start replicating but produce little or no symptoms. In the second phase of the study, expected to start in summer 2021, all participants will be infected with the standardised dose of virus which was established in phase one.
For phase one, up to 64 healthy participants between the ages of 18 – 30 who have previously been naturally infected with COVID-19 will be re-exposed to the virus in carefully controlled conditions.”
The reward for the participation is £5,000.
Cannibalism on Mars
The bioethicist Paul Wolpe at Emory University is busy designing cannibalism concepts for Mars astronauts, so in case one of the Mars explorers dies, their nutritious body won’t go to waste. This sure gets you into clickbait media (originally seen on Daily Mail). I personally invite my readers to send Wolpe and NASA your recipes!
Wildlife and Environment
This is the non-sarcastic section of Schneider Shorts.
About the ancient kauri trees of New Zealand and how analysis of long-buried tree trunks helps reconstructing Earth’s history.
“When Hogg adjusted the radiocarbon dates of the tree based on the calibration curve, he realized they spanned the onset of the Laschamps Event. The kauri had sprouted into a sapling around 42,715 years ago; 1,600 years later, it crashed into the mud. Hogg and Lorrey worked with Alan Cooper of the South Australian Museum and Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales to match the information in the tree’s rings with other natural archives to build a precise sequence of events. The story they tell, relayed in a paper published in Science this February, is one of global environmental catastrophe.“
The article goes on to quote Cooper.
You all heard about the plans to dump the radioactive water of Fukushima into the ocean. The Japanese nuclear industry insists it has been cleaned, because the mascot Little Mr Tritium says so. Here, an overview of the corruption and safety risks in Japanese nuclear industry by Daily Beast, including the exact prediction of the 2011 Fukushima disaster by one of the plant’s own scientists in 2005:
“The Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO), which operates two of the nuclear power plants, is at the center of a corruption scandal involving massive bribes and pay-offs to and from a city official over three decades. Late last year, the Osaka District Court ruled that two reactors at its Oi nuclear plant in Fukui were vulnerable to a major earthquake despite having been approved to restart by the NRA. Last year, KEPCO’s Takahama plant had to suspend operations at two nuclear reactors after failing to build adequate counterterrorism facilities.
The Genkai Power plant in Saga, operated by Kyūshū Electric Power Company, has also suffered a host of problems since it was reactivated in March of 2018, including steam leaks and malfunctioning cooling pumps. Last month, a local district court rejected a lawsuit by residents to halt production, ruling that the plant was sufficiently safe from volcanic and seismic activity under the new guidelines.
Japan’s nuclear power plants have long been notorious for poor security, and were often supplied manpower by organized crime groups before and after the Fukushima nuclear accident. Even now, background checks are not mandatory.“
Now this, reported by The Hill:
“The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) that owns Fukushima, and is now responsible for the cleanup (that is likely to last the remainder of this century), didn’t admit until recently that the wastewater contains significant amounts of radioactive Carbon-14. As C-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years, and is known to bio-accumulate in marine ecosystems and cause cellular and genetic impairment. This is a very serious concern.”
I end this instalment of Schneider Shorts with something truly ridiculous. Ashutosh Tiwari seeks an unpaid
servant intern to write spam emails for his scamference business. Bad news for those of you interested to apply: the LinkedIn job posting is from late 2020 and has expired (no, it was not deleted as “misinformation”, but wait till LinkedIn finds my Tiwari reporting like this here).
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