Is media hype good?

I was just reading an article on a 37-year-old woman in Korea, who received umbilical cord stem cells as treatment for her spinal cord injury. The author of the WorldNet article stated that he had put off publishing about the experiment until he had seen the article published in a peer-reviewed journal. The peer-reviewed article comes from a journal in Greece, known as Cytotherapy. The abstract is short and the full article is available only to subscribers. Yes, the experiment is interesting, and I have been working hard to determine how the woman is doing now. I'll write more on this later. Because today, the parts that interest me are two: 1) The media didn't pick up on this one when it occurred ONE YEAR AGO and 2) The misspelling of the journal title in one article got picked up and reprinted in a number of media outlets today. I don't know what outlets the Korean clinic used a year ago, but the world was interested in sensation at the time--cloning human embryos--so not many noticed. Luckily for us, that means we may be able to learn how dramatic the recovery really was. Today the battles are definitely engaged among supporters of adult vs. embryonic stem cells. So, the FDA approval of a clinical trial for the transplant of fetal brain cells into six children suffering from Batten's disease makes headlines. The word, FIRST, catches the eye. Could it also be that the research is connected to one of the companies whose advertisement appears on your screen when you read nearly anything related to stem cells? I contacted one of those companies once to find out where their fetal cells come from. They quickly stopped responding to my questions when they learned I was not a potential customer. Money, media, breakthrough advances in science--all connected. Did you know that one of the reasons many U.S. companies publish in a peer-reviewed journal and in the media simultaneously has to do with the Sarbanes-Oxley law and the Securities and Exchange Commission? A publicly-held company cannot release information that may affect their stock price until an approved analyst has checked the company's data to see that they have the support to make their claim. So, a company has two choices--publish much later in a peer-reviewed journal (and perhaps fall into the cold fusion category of being disproved later), or wait until the article is ready for release and then let the media know about it. Either way, what we read is generally moved first by the media. And the other item--misspelling of the journal's name. Google, of course, is smart enough to ask you whether you mean xxxxx (correct spelling). But the repetition of any unusual term in its incorrect spelling gives us an idea of how often something sensational can be picked up and copied all over the place. Be critical, people, don't always rely on one source for your information. And use the exciting power of the Internet to help you sort through the validity of claims you read. Through places such as PubMed, an index of medically-related journal publications, you can quickly check something you see in the "normal" media. And, if you are someone affected by a condition--such as a spinal cord injury--stay in touch with your support group. They generally look carefully at media reports and try to determine their validity. Marie Godfrey, PhD
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