Respectful Insolence

At least half the time, it seems that when I take on a relatively new topic with every intention of just doing one post about it I somehow end up doing more than one post. I don’t know why that is. It just seems to happen. Sometimes, I find something related to but sufficiently different that interests me, sometimes seemingly quite at random. Sometimes someone responds to my post in such a way that I feel obliged to answer. Sometimes, readers make me aware of variations on a theme, so to speak, either in the comments or by e-mailing me links. That’s what happened this time.

Yesterday I posted about a profoundly quacky autism treatment called fresh cell therapy. As strange as it sounds, the idea behind this bizarre little bit of “autism biomed” quackery is the idea that cells harvested from sheep fetuses just short of full term can treat autism. At first I thought that it was a variant of the many stem cell quackeries that choke Mexico and many Third World countries like so much kudzu strangling science-based treatments. It turns out that I was wrong in that the website, which was in German given that this particularly—shall we say?—imaginative group of “alternative” practitioners are located in Germany, explained helpfully that the concept behind this therapy was that “like cures like,” in that, apparently, cells from the organ to be repaired will somehow home to the organ to be repaired via the immune system, letting the “energy of the cell juices” and the “force of the cell” go to “penetrate mind, body, and soul.” In other words, what I saw here was an unholy combination of one major principle of homeopathy (sympathetic magic) combined with pure vitalism, all tarted up with references to stem cells thrown in like so much glitter sprinkled on a turd. In reality, what we have here is a bunch of dubious doctors grinding up a bunch of fresh fetal brain tissue from sheep, injecting it the muscles of children, and telling the parents it will treat their autism. In other contexts, we have a bunch of the same dubious doctors grinding up a bunch of fresh fetal brain tissue from sheep, injecting it the muscles of adults, and telling them it will slow or reverse the aging process.

Reading stuff like this, I sometimes wonder what would happen if I ever decided to turn my power over to evil and became a quack. The havoc I could wreak! Best not to think of it.

Be that as it may, someone pointed out in the comments that this German clinic isn’t the only one using this sort of “breakthrough” treatment. In fact, there’s at least one such clinic much closer to home, right here in the good, ol’ USA. Well, not quite. Its mailing address is in the good ol’ USA (San Ysidro, California, to be precise). Its actual facilities are in Tijuana, the home of American quackery away from home, just across the border from San Diego. There’s even a Best Western Americana Inn in San Ysidro where prospective patients can stay and utilize a convenient shuttle bus that takes them across the border to the clinic. But what is this clinic? It’s called the The Center for Holistic Life Extension, and it’s run by a guy named Dr. Luis Velazquez, who claims his clinic can treat:

  • Health problems related to the immune system.
  • Health problems related to chronic degenerative illness.
  • Health problems related to substance abuse.
  • Collagen illness
  • All illness related to problems in the bone and muscle system, as well as in the cardiovascular, pulmonary, endocrine, renal, digestive, nervous, and lymphatic system. Cancer (I, II, III, IV stage). Arthritis (all forms and modalities). MS, ALS, Allergies, Muscular Dystrophy, Lupus, Scleroderma, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Diabetes Mellitus, Colitis, Obesity, Huntington Disease (Chorea), Down’s Syndrome, growth deficiency, learning disabilities.

Wow. That’s a list, isn’t it? It gets even better, though. Remember how I said that the “fresh cell therapy” used by Dr. Geoffrey Huertgen in Germany sounded an awful lot like homeopathy with cells, at least from the perspective of the rationale for the therapy sucked right out of concepts of sympathetic magic? At least Dr. Velazquez is straight up about it when he states that his therapies are “natural” and based on:

  • Dr. Kuhnau’s Live-Cell Therapy (Xenotransplants)
  • Organ Therapy
  • Classic Homeopathy
  • High resolution, digital iridology
  • Herb Therapy
  • 3 intensive weeks of Holistic Hospitalization

Next, remember how Dr. Huertgen used sheep embryos as the source of his “fresh cells”? Dr. Velazquez uses something much better than that. Why is it better? Well, it just is. At least, it’s more exotic, anyway. He uses “live cells” (which are totally different from “fresh cells,” naturally) taken from the blue shark. Why? Because sharks are way cooler than sheep, of course! (Certainly my five-year-old niece, who thinks sharks are really cool, would agree.) They’re so cool (and their embryos must be even cooler than sheep embryos) that, according to Dr. Velazquez, they have the “perfect immune system”:

It was previously believed that sheep were the best donor animals because of their five or six embryos. However, with the results of recent research, shark embryo cells seem to be vastly superior to sheep embryo cells, in particular the blue shark (Cacharius glaucus) found only in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. (It is important to note that sharks are hunted and killed daily, and the embryonic sac is normally thrown away as worthless.)

The shark has a perfect immune system in that it is free from cancer and has no contagious diseases. It has so far proven impossible to produce cancer cells in the blue shark and this animal also will never accept the HIV virus, for example. Additionally the blue (and other) sharks have circulating antibodies as immunoglobulin already circulating in their blood. Equally important, the cells used in Live Cell Therapy should be from a specie which has a comparable pregnancy time to the human, such as the blue shark.

It is, of course, a devastating myth that sharks don’t get cancer. I say “devastating” because this pernicious myth is part of what fueled a large industry selling shark cartilage, leading to the decimation of shark populations. But sharks do get cancer! It’s unclear how frequently they get cancer; it hasn’t been extensively studied, and sharks in the wild who develop cancer are unlikely to survive long. Also, it’s not surprising that sharks can’t be infected with HIV; it’s a virus that infects humans. HIV doesn’t infect a lot of other animals, too, including sheep. That sharks can’t be infected with HIV says nothing in particular except that sharks are not human. No big surprise there, for sure. What would be surprising would be if HIV could infect sharks. I’m also not sure what the heck Dr. Velazquez means by saying that sharks have circulating antibodies as immunoglobulin already circulating in their blood. So do humans. Has he ever heard of IgG, for instance?

So what, exactly, does this treatment entail? This is what Velazquez does with the shark embryo tissue:

Embryonic cells from specific tissues (in our case, from the blue shark) are ground up, maintained in a saline solution and deep- frozen.* The solution is first tested thoroughly for sterility before being injected intramuscularly into the patient. The live cells are absorbed by the patient’s body and act as a stimulant to “wake up” the patient’s own corresponding cells. The cellular material is brought through “macrophages” (a special type of white cell) to the targeted human organ (ie., thyroid to thyroid, liver to liver, etc.), where it is deposited. The healthy cell material “glues” to the damaged human cells and induces a “correcting” activity by using the very well known ability of every cell to repair itself. With the help of radioactive tagging, not available until recent years, we know that the material injected into humans is quickly dissolved usually within about four hours’ time. Depending on the affliction, the effect of Live Cell Therapy is usually not apparent for four to six weeks after treatment, in some cases earlier and in other cases, later. Each individual will respond differently.

Dr. Valesquez, I would suggest, doesn’t understand the immune system very well. (I know, I know, that’s a massive understatement.)

Are you starting to see a theme here? Just as Dr. Huertgen thought that ground-up organs from sheep fetuses will somehow, if injected intramuscularly, magically home to the organ affected by whatever malady he is trying to treat and even more magically repair whatever damage to that organ is resulting in its dysfunction, Dr. Velazquez believes that ground-up organs from shark fetuses will somehow, if injected intramuscularly, magically home to the organ affected by whatever malady he is trying to treat and even more magically repair whatever damage to that organ is resulting in its dysfunction. Once again, no thought is given between cross-species differences in cellular antigens that results in rapid destruction and removal of material from one species injected into another species. Certainly macrophages will come and get the shark embryo organ extracts injected intramuscularly. I have no doubt of that. They’ll come to feast on them and eliminate the foreign material as the immune system efficiently homes in on any material that should be there. I’m afraid that it won’t transport these cells to the organs that Dr. Velazquez thinks they will go to.

There’s so much pseudoscience and quackery on this one website that I could do a series of posts dedicated to its dismantling; so I’ll just concentrate on some of it for this post. Even doing that, even if I were to extend this to beyond the length of a typical Orac post, I can only scratch the surface. So I will “cherry pick” my favorite bits, bits so outrageously wrong that they made my jaw drop when I read them. Of course, there’s the usual “holistic” nonsense all over the place in virtually every page of the website, along with attacks on conventional medicine. Indeed, at one point, it is asked, “Why travel to Mexico for treatment”? The answer? I think you know the answer: Because “Americans are being denied access to one of the most promising innovations in medical science and they are paying the price,” of course! (Help, help! I’m being repressed!) It’s the evil pharma-medical complex that’s keeping you from being injected by ground up shark embryo organs! So you have to travel to Mexico if you want that sort of “innovative” therapy. And, of course, it’s not “drug therapy” or that evil toxic chemotherapy; so it’s not allowed, even though:

Cellular Therapy is supported by more than 3,000 scientific publications, a number which grows day by day. These works can be found in the library of the International Center of Cell Investigation in Heidelberg, Germany, and some of them contain definitive conclusions over the mechanisms of action based on studies with radioisotopes and histochemical colorizations.

Funny, but I can’t find any of those publications in the peer-reviewed medical literature. One wonders why, if injecting shark embryo organ extracts into people’s muscles can cure so many diseases, there aren’t a lot of reports in journals indexed by PubMed describing these wonders as a groundwork for further research. It must be the evil big pharma suppressing it all, although I can’t help but point out that, if grinding up shark embryo organs and injecting them could cure cancer, big pharma would be on it, given the massive profit potential. Pharma would probably team up with rogue marine biologists and some fishermen in order to corner the market on shark embryos. Either that, or they’d figure out how to isolate the active substances in the extracts and patent them.

Be that as it may, what we have here is a massive case of special pleading. One wonders how much Dr. Velazquez charges for his “services” to produce all those glowing testimonials that he has.

The other thing that Dr. Velazquez has is a primitive understanding of cancer. Basically, he claims it’s all due to a bacteria, specifically a mycoplasma:

Cancer is a mycoplasma (Progenitor Cryptocides) bacteria – just like strep or staph, it lives harmlessly in the body. In its virulent form, it becomes a fatal systemic disease found in the blood. But the cancer mycoplasma is smaller, meaner and smarter. If you attack it, it packs up its bags and moves to another location where it can divide and multiply without interruption. That is why surgical removal of parts of the body is futile since the activated cancer is in the blood. Unless it is treated as a systemic disease, there is no hope of recovery.

How do we get cancer? At the moment of conception, when the sperm fertilizes the egg, 3 things are created: (1) life; (2) an immune system; and (3) cancer bacteria. The job of the cancer mycoplasma is to cause the cell of the fertilized egg to divide and multiply rapidly until the embryo reaches full stage. At that time, the job of the cancer mycoplasma is finished. It will then remain in the blood stream of most animals, throughout our lives as a harmless scavenger.

It’s hard not to wonder how, if cancer is in reality a mycoplasma, treating it with live cells will cure it. It’s all very confused and contradictory, making little, if any sense. It’s not even logically self-consistent unless you stretch. I suppose the claim that “live cell therapy” does that proverbial quack thing and “boosts the immune system” might be consistent with a mycoplasma, but the fact remains that cancer is not a mycoplasma. In fact, you can even find out about Progenitor cryptocides in Wikipedia. In any case, this whole idea of Progenitor cryptocides as a cause of all cancer is a discredited idea originating in the 1950s from a woman named Virginia Livingston. Dr. Livingston (also known as Dr. Livingston-Wheeler after she remarried) came to believe that this particular bug was the One True Cause of Cancer. According to her ideas, Progenitor cryptocides was somehow activated when the immune system was somehow weakened or otherwise placed under great stress.

Based on this idea, Dr. Livingston-Wheeler came up with a complex treatment to eliminate this bacteria that involved subjecting the patient to a whole bunch of fairly standard medical tests and then, based on these tests, designing a “personalized immune-enhancement vaccine” usually derived from the patient’s own serum or blood. there was more, of course. (Isn’t there always?) There was an associated regimen of supplements, antibiotics, nutritional supplements, digestive enzymes, bile salts, coffee enemas (of course!), laxatives, and even blood transfusions, plus a strict vegetarian diet and group therapy. Some patients receive up to 30 g a day of intravenous vitamin C.

Despite Dr. Livingston-Wheeler’s claim of and 82% success rate, Livingston-Wheeler therapy doesn’t work, and Progenitor cryptocides has never been shown even to exist by independent investigators. Indeed, it turns out that Dr. Livingston-Wheeler probably mistook several different types of bacteria for Progenitor cryptocides.

Not only doesn’t it work, but the quality of life was significantly lower in a small study of patients undergoing this therapy, much as the quality of life is worse for Gerson therapy. The American Cancer Society warns against this therapy, as does the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. But Dr. Livingston-Wheeler does, however, have her own page on Whale.to. Quelle surprise!

In perusing the multiple variants of “fresh cell” or “live cell therapy,” I remain astounded how anyone could think that injecting animal organ tissue, fetal tissue, or embryonic animal tissue can magically cure what ails you. It really is vitalistic magic, no different at its core than ancient beliefs that eating the heart of a tiger will give you the courage of a tiger or that consuming bull testicles will restore a man’s potency. It’s just that the success of science has provided a language quacks can use to decorate their magical beliefs and, unfortunately, make a lot of money doing it.

Comments

  1. #1 sophia8
    July 25, 2012

    Why aren’t PETA and the other animal-rights lot already on these peoples’ backs, especially since using full-term animal embryos entails killing the mother as well?
    ….Oh, yeah, right….

  2. #2 herr doktor bimler
    July 25, 2012

    the International Center of Cell Investigation in Heidelberg, Germany
    Are you as surprised as I am to learn that the very existence of this International Center is unknown to the Internet?

    That is why surgical removal of parts of the body is futile since the activated cancer is in the blood. Unless it is treated as a systemic disease, there is no hope of recovery.
    This would come as a great surprise to various friends & relations.

  3. #3 qetzal
    July 25, 2012

    The solution is first tested thoroughly for sterility before being injected intramuscularly into the patient. The live cells are absorbed by the patient’s body . . .

    So it’s a sterile solution containing live cells? Is it also colorless and green?

    I suppose what he means to claim is that the solution is tested for bacterial contamination. How much you want to bet that’s bullsh*t? Given the outrageous stupidity of his statements, I don’t believe he’d be capable of performing a proper test for bioburden on his ground up shark embryos.

    However, I suspect the whole thing is bogus. I bet what he really injects is just sterile saline. Why bother going to all the trouble of getting shark embryos and preparing extracts? Why run the risk that a patient has a severe immune reaction or gets an infection? I bet they just keep some pickled shark eggs or something on hand as props to impress the rubes. Besides, I guarantee that sterile saline is at least as effective as “live” shark embryo cells, and a whole lot safer.

  4. #4 Heliantus
    July 25, 2012

    Now that’s…. interesting.

    [shark cells] will never accept the HIV virus

    Right at this point, I knew all I need about the competence of this guy.
    Why doesn’t he try to inject patients with oak acorn? Trees cannot get HIV either.

    At that time, the job of the cancer mycoplasma is finished. It will then remain in the blood stream of most animals, throughout our lives as a harmless scavenger.

    Mycoplasma? the way he describes them, doesn’t he mean midchlorans?

  5. #5 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde....but live free or die atm.
    July 25, 2012

    @Heliantus

    If he actually used the word midichlorians Lucas would come after him for copyright infringement.

  6. #6 thenewme
    July 25, 2012

    There’s a company called Nutrilys Del Mar that makes/sells shark oil supplements and claims to have “helped roughly 10,000 breast cancer patients” with it.

    It’s being discussed on cancer support sites, and I guess it’s the next big thing since shark cartilage!

    I guess they don’t want to waste any potential miracle cures from the shark remnants. What’s next, shark skin pills to treat cancer? Shark tooth enemas? Shark poo tea?

  7. #7 Shay
    July 25, 2012

    @thenewme:

    If by “helped” you mean “lightened their pocketbooks” I think that’s a fair statement to make.

  8. #8 thenewme
    July 25, 2012

    @Shay,
    Hehe – no doubt!

    Actually they claim their shark oil (not to be confused with snake oil, LOL) strengthens the immune system (of course!) to help fight breast cancer and also helps with radiation side effects.

  9. #9 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde....but live free or die atm.
    July 25, 2012

    I’m just stuck picturing the amount of shark cartiledge, etc they would have to render to get a sufficient amount of oil from.

    ….and the other part of me wonders if rendering shark oil stinks as badly as rendering whale blubber/oil. That’s a stench I’ll never forget.

  10. #10 Denice Walter
    July 25, 2012

    I do recall the item *shark’s fin soup* being a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, as well as the TCM attributions made about its uh.. potency and the efforts to combat the resultant slaughter of sharks for their fins. There’s article on Wiki about this.

  11. #11 Mrs Woo
    July 25, 2012

    The testimonial on the one page by the Parkinson’s patient made me sad. I googled Parkinson’s progression and his progression (or lack there of yet) is not outside of statistical limits in any way. There are differences between his two MRI’s, though not as bad as later stages. The hereditary illness in my own family is also a tri-nucleotide repeat disorder and I believe that Parkinson’s is just like that, in that the more erroneous repeats there are in the specific gene sequence the earlier the onset and the more rapid the disease. This treatment is not proven by his testimonial at all, but someone who didn’t know as much about Parkinson’s or similar disorders would be convinced that there is a lot of hope in it.

    Originally I went looking for a US-based clinic because I wondered if they, too, advertised they could cure autism, etc., because I hadn’t remembered live cell therapy being encouraged as a way to treat autism on the autism recovery sites. This clinic was, of course, except for using a different animal, not really that much different from the one discussed the other day.

    “Shark tissue – it’s not just to cure cancer anymore…”

    ~shakes head~

  12. #12 Mrs Woo
    July 25, 2012

    I’m still really curious about the little thing about biological surgery (that leaves about ten stitches apparently) and what in the world they are operating on to ‘change the balance of stem cells’ in the patient’s body. When you look up biological surgery on the internet most of it is about harvesting and transplanting stem cells. This sounds like they’re doing something (or just slicing the person open and sewing them back up to make them think something was done) in an attempt to stimulate stem cell production in one part of the body. I couldn’t find anything, though, that really described what they would do and by what mechanism it might work. It sounds like they are removing something that they say inhibits the production of stem cells in the bone marrow to allow the body to produce as many stem cells as it wants, thus “repairing” whatever is wrong.

    http://extendlife.com/biological_surgery.php

  13. #13 AdamG
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlpWkCFZXQY&feature=player_detailpage#t=265s
    July 25, 2012

    “At the moment of conception, when the sperm fertilizes the egg, 3 things are created: (1) life; (2) an immune system; and (3) cancer bacteria.”

    WHAT
    Orac, you owe me a new keyboard, this one has coffee all over it now. Do these people seriously believe that a single cell can have an ‘immune system’? The nonsense about ‘cancer bacteria’ is completely laughable.

  14. #14 Krebiozen
    July 25, 2012

    Mrs Woo,

    The testimonial on the one page by the Parkinson’s patient made me sad.

    Indeed.
    (condition with variable course) + (quack remedy) = (superficially impressive testimonial)

  15. #15 Hillyard
    U.K.
    July 25, 2012

    Sheep may not get HIV but they do get scrapie – related to BSE and as a result, in the UK at least, such brain tissue is kept out of human food – just in case. And they are injecting this into humans!!

  16. #16 Demandabanana
    July 25, 2012

    “Embryonic cells from specific tissues (in our case, from the blue shark) are ground up, maintained in a saline solution and deep- frozen.”

    Those really are miraculous cells if you can do all that to them and they aren’t sheared open and they don’t explode upon freezing!

  17. #17 Roadstergal
    Yay Area, CA
    July 25, 2012

    You can viably freeze cells – but not in saline… I’m with the crowd that thinks there’s a good chance that it’s just plain saline.

    The cellular material is brought through “macrophages” (a special type of white cell) to the targeted human organ

    To be fair, if there is any foreign material in the injection, a lot of it would wind up in macrophages. If, of course, your immune system is functioning well and doing the right thing by targeting foregin material for elimination by scavenger cells.

    (Macro + page = Big Eater. I love that name.)

  18. #18 Denice Walter
    July 25, 2012

    ….” like so much kudzu strangling science-based treatments”…

    I really like woo metaphors involving vegetation, whether they focus upon its burgeoning-ness ( as here) or its propensity to decay ( my own).

  19. #19 herr doktor bimler
    July 25, 2012

    I’m with the crowd that thinks there’s a good chance that it’s just plain saline.
    Dr. Velazquez

  20. #20 Composer99
    July 25, 2012

    This stuff makes me think sometimes that instead of normal biology classes there should be “BS to avoid” biology classes at the schools.

  21. #21 herr doktor bimler
    July 25, 2012

    I’m with the crowd that thinks there’s a good chance that it’s just plain saline.
    Dr. Velazquez has lied about so much else, what are the chances that he is really spending money to have blue sharks slaughtered so he can add some frozen embryonic tissue to his sterile live-cell injections?

    Interestingly, the Linnean binomial Cacharius glaucus only seems to apply to the Blue shark within Woo circles (to the rest of the world it’s Prionace glauca).

    Here’s Robert Ross promoting Dr Kuhnau and his shark-based Live Cell therapy, in 1998:
    http://www.awarenessmag.com/marapr8/MA8_KUHNAU.HTML
    Did Velazquez inherit Kuhnau’s operation, or simply set up in opposition and steal his bullshit? Anyway, Ross’s article is hilarious, and mentions the prevalence of cannibalism as part of the proud intellectual background of Live Cell therapy. No, really.

  22. #22 herr doktor bimler
    July 25, 2012

    Comment in moderation, due to a link.
    Shorter link-free version — the Linnean binomial Cacharius glaucus only seems to apply to the Blue shark within Woo circles (to the rest of the world it’s Prionace glauca). If you Google it, the first hit leads you to a 1998 screed by Robert Ross, promoting Dr Kuhnau and his shark-based Live Cell therapy.

    Did Velazquez inherit Kuhnau’s operation, or simply set up in opposition and steal his bullshit? Anyway, Ross’s article is hilarious, and mentions the prevalence of cannibalism as part of the proud intellectual background of Live Cell therapy. No, really. Also, the Voronoff animal-gland implant tradition.

  23. #23 Liz Ditz
    Deep in the briny blue
    July 25, 2012

    Of course the sheep-embryo “treatment” is awful, but this one is a tragic waste of sharks.

    Can we form a shark-protection league?

    I had the opportunity to swim with both reef sharks and hammerheads in the Galapagos. The more I learn about the shark species, the more I am taken with them.

  24. #24 Krebiozen
    July 25, 2012

    Can we form a shark-protection league?

    I’d join. Every other wildlife documentary I watch seems to feature fishermen hacking the fins off live sharks and throwing them back to die because they can make more money from shark fins than from their traditional catches. Maybe we could start a rumor in China that sharks fins cause impotence.

  25. #25 Spectator
    July 25, 2012

    “Given the outrageous stupidity of his statements”

    “Is it also colorless and green?”
    Yes, grasshopper.

    —-

    Are you (plural) sure it’s stupid, and not sales?

    When marketing a con, do not confuse the woopeople with falsifiable facts; that would disturb them. Meet the customer on their highway, one of superstition, suspicion, and a belief that they are part of a small, elect, Illuminati.

  26. #26 Mrs Woo
    July 25, 2012

    I would join. I believe every living creature has a right to be treated ethically at least, and that if it is harvested that the harvest is for a purpose and not wanton or wasteful. Sharks are a species that was around with the dinosaurs. It would be a shame for them to be driven to extinction because of unproven “alternative medical” treatments.

  27. #27 Spectator
    July 25, 2012

    Sharks, dinosaurs.

    Woofolk are not interested in that argument; dinosaurs were around 6023 years ago, and up until, uh, they were killed off by manly naturalistic spear-hunting preachers just before the invention of modern photography.
    Or something.

  28. #28 Denice Walter
    July 25, 2012

    @ Spectator:

    I think you have it NEARLY right about woo except that its advocates would not think of themselves as Illuminati because they are instead Brave Maverick Rebels riding upon the crest of the incoming wave that is Paradigm Shift that shall wash away the old, soul-less scientism with Nature’s Pure In-corrupt Spirituality.

    We, on the other hand, are the Children of the Enlightment, a/k/a the Illuminati – materialists, atheists, operationalisers and deniers of vitalism, soulful-ality and Gaia-ness. Usually good at stat, too.

  29. #29 ebohlman
    http://turnipsandpotatoes.wordpress.com
    July 25, 2012

    3 intensive weeks of Holistic Hospitalization

    Didn’t John Yoo write a memo authorizing that for suspected terrorists?

    Equally important, the cells used in Live Cell Therapy should be from a specie which has a comparable pregnancy time to the human, such as the blue shark.

    Exact same form of magical thinking as the nineteenth-century quack who claimed that proper digestion requires chewing each mouthful of food 32 times, once for each tooth.

    qetzal: “Pickled Shark Eggs” = band name.

    thenewme: same for “Shark Poo Tea”.

  30. #30 JKW
    Danville, Tri-state area
    July 25, 2012

    No playscience “jumped the shark” comments? Perhaps Velazquez is just a Hanna-Barbera fan: http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/jabberjaw2.jpg

  31. #31 qetzal
    July 25, 2012

    Spectator:

    Are you (plural) sure it’s stupid, and not sales?

    Who says it has to be either/or?

  32. #32 Ricky
    July 26, 2012

    Equally important, the cells used in Live Cell Therapy should be from a specie which has a comparable pregnancy time to the human, such as the blue shark.

    For sufficiently vague values of “comparable”, apparently – sheep gestation is about 5 months and the blue shark’s is listed as 9-12 months.

  33. #33 Militant Agnostic
    July 26, 2012

    Liz Ditz

    Can we form a shark-protection league?

    Eliminating the top predator in an ecosystem never ends well. Sharks often eat the fish that eat the fish that we like to eat. For example, a drastic decline in shark populations has resulted in an explosion in the cow nosed ray population and a decline in commercially valuable species.

  34. #34 Skeptigal
    United States
    July 26, 2012

    Critical thought, so refreshing. As for this, shark embryos? Sounds like “shark oil” (Instead of snake, right? Snark oil?). Even though the stem cell thing is not advertised, that won’t stop homeopathy buffs from making that connection themselves. I bet those embryos are pretty big (poor sharks), they’d yield more magic cells. Wait, I’ve got it! Sharks live in the ocean, there is literally shark tissue IN THE WATER. Wouldn’t ocean water be considered homeopathic medicine itself? Oh, silly me, it’s probably not diluted enough.

    I should go to bed….

  35. #35 Mrs Woo
    July 26, 2012

    So – who has the ability to start a Shark Protection League? I’m not much for making websites, etc.

  36. #36 Krebiozen
    July 26, 2012

    No playscience “jumped the shark” comments?

    I was tempted to make some shark jokes like, “you’re going to need a bigger syringe”, or “just when you thought it was safe to go back in the alternative medicine clinic” but I thought better of it.

  37. #37 Greengirl
    Cleveland
    July 26, 2012

    Orac, I have read som, not all of your comments re alternative treatments. While I agree with you on many points, I also believe the mind to be extremely powerful in the healing process. My frustration with you and the arragont posters here is this: What are scientists doing to cure cancer??!! Billions and billions of $$$$ and years and years of research for WHAT? To let Dr. Healy and thousands like her die of a brain tumor? Get on with it! Get some real answers for people!!!! My own son has a brain tumor and I would go to the end of the earth for help! Find a cure and stop wasting time with your worthless dribble and your holier than thou attitude! Do something that really matters all you so called scientists here!!!
    Find A Cure! Stop Wasting Time and $$$$. Sick people run out of time!

  38. #38 Bonnie
    July 26, 2012

    This reminds me of the Texas con artist John Brinkley. In the early part of the last century he got the idea of transplanting goat testicles into men to cure impotence. It’s true – there’s nothing new under the sun!

  39. #39 herr doktor bimler
    July 26, 2012

    It is, of course, a devastating myth that sharks don’t get cancer.

    When they *do* get cancer, however, it follows from Dr. Kuhnau’s Live-Cell theory that they can be cured with an injection of ground-up human fetal cells.

  40. #40 Skeptigal
    July 27, 2012

    @Greengirl I’m sorry your son is ill, I hope the best for him. My father died from an extremely aggressive brain tumor. It’s hard.
    “Cancer” is not a single or simple disease mechanism. There are literally hundreds of cancers, each responding to different treatments in different ways (or not at all). There won’t be a “penicillin” for it. We skeptics may sound smug, but that smugness masks our intense anger. We are infuriated that hucksters lie about testing and results. We want to stop those that sell fake medicine and false hope to desperate families. We loathe health peddlers who trade on people’s good will and naivete, spicing their lies w/ words like “quantum mechanics” and “molecular bonding” to make themselves sound legitimate. There are NO rules governing the ingredients of alternative medicine, you don’t know what or how much of anything you are getting. We want those people exposed and stopped. It literally makes us sick when we read someone’s irresponsible treatment for a disease. We are pissed. We come here learn and joke instead of punching someone. Welcome.

  41. #41 Mrs Woo
    July 27, 2012

    @Greengirl – as a parent myself my heart hurts for what you and your child are going through. Skeptigal is correct, though – most of our behavior towards alternative medicine in these comments is based on anger and frustration. It makes us angry that alternative providers make up whatever they want to, take money hand over fist and deliver no real answers. We want a cure for cancer as much as you do. i’ve lost both parents to cancer and other friends and family as well.

    Today’s post is about current cancer research and therapies. Hopefully it will help you understand that they have learned a lot more and why there still is no cure for cancer in sight.

    You have my prayers (I’m an admitted person of faith) as you go through this journey with your child.

  42. #42 flip
    July 27, 2012

    Wow, I have no understanding of how cancer works – or really anything about cancer more than “bad cells” – and really *really* basic biology from school… and even I can work out that the description of cancer as something in the blood and from an embryonic state is absolute bullshit.

    Sigh… one wonders how anyone manages to get through school without learning how to see this stuff for what it is…

  43. #43 MI Dawn
    July 27, 2012

    @greengirl: I, too, am sorry to read about your son.

    However, believe us: if Orac had the cure for cancer – even in his own specialty, breast cancer – he would have used it to save women he loved very dearly, and not had to watch them die of the disease.

    No one is out there NOT trying to cure cancer. But even trying to cure *1* cancer is very difficult…

    My best to you and your son.

  44. #44 Lawrence
    July 27, 2012

    @Greengirl – Cancer treatments are getting better and better every year. Survival rates keep getting better and we can actually cure some Cancers right now, so it is very frustrating to see these alternative treatments offer a “cure-all” and false hope…..families that are robbed of their loved ones because they reject conventional medicine in favor of quack cures – which don’t work & have no evidence in their favor.

    That’s why we are frustrated – these things don’t work, and while conventional medicine isn’t perfect, we have evidence to show that it actually works.

  45. #45 Mrs Woo
    July 27, 2012

    @flip – I end up wondering the same thing. Some of us retained a lot more from school than others and/or remained scientifically curious afterwards. There’s also a dearth of critical thinking in this world, and many have no idea how to filter the information thrown at them to separate the “good” from the “bad.”

  46. #46 thenewme
    July 27, 2012

    @Greengirl,
    I’m so sorry about your son. We all share your frustration about slow progress and wish there was an easy answer!

    Please take a look at this blog entry. It’s an interesting look at some of the reasons “The Cure” is so elusive: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/02/21/why-cant-we-cure-cancer/

  47. #47 herr doktor bimler
    July 27, 2012

    Find a cure and stop wasting time with your worthless dribble and your holier than thou attitude! Do something that really matters all you so called scientists here!!!

    I can’t quite follow the argument that we must personally cure cancer before we have any right to criticise fraudulent scum and quacks who claim to cure autism.

  48. #48 Heliantus
    July 27, 2012

    Find a cure and stop wasting time with your worthless dribble and your holier than thou attitude! Do something that really matters all you so called scientists here!!!

    I would love to, but governments in the western world are currently busy cutting on the research budgets, and I lost my job as a scientist a few months back.
    To be fair, in my field, our loss of budget was tied, in part, to overselling ourselves a decade ago and not delivering on the promises. Although, sometimes, I feel our conservative government was just looking for an excuse to cut funding. Easier in science than in the military, we don’t have guns.

    Matters turned out to be more complicated than expected (aren’t they always?). Some of my colleagues had started to re-focus on more achievable goals. Hopefully, they will continue. Unless they lose their job, too.

    So. If you want scientists to be working, be sure that your government knows you want them to.

  49. #49 Mrs Woo
    July 27, 2012

    Definitely a sad state of affairs Heliantus. Have you found another job yet?

  50. #50 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    July 27, 2012

    Greengirl,

    Who the heck are you to accuse people of malingering and wastefulness?

  51. #51 Heliantus
    July 27, 2012

    @ Mrs Woo

    Not yet, alas.
    I feel guilty because i could have searched harder for a new job. But at the same time, my supervisor, who lost his job a few months after me, is also still looking, so I guess it’s not just me.

  52. #52 Spectator
    July 27, 2012

    @Denice Walter
    July 25, 9:16 pm

    Well said!
    Pan-literate Mavericks of international vision, they are.

    PS, how can one see follow up comments? I’m sorta surprised to see that several people have replied to my posts, but I typically don’t know this until semi-randomly checking the page days later. …. of course I may not see the reply to this inquiry either

  53. #53 Mrs Woo
    July 28, 2012

    @Spectator – if you figure out, let me know – I literally just check the page several times a day to see what new comments have shown up on threads.

    @Heliantus – best wishes on the job search. It’s no fun looking, I know. Maybe mentioning it here might even help. You never know where networking can get you… Can’t hurt.

  54. #54 THS
    Nightfall; cool and clear
    July 28, 2012

    This sheep and shark sh*t. Wow. Yeah, considering the job scene in bioscience, this stuff is a real slap in the face. One is tempted to get some quartz crystals and, say, lysozyme, and panhandle some spare change with simple, outrageous woo. There must be a lot of us who consider their own formulations and rhetoric in odd moments, for comic relief if nothing else.

  55. #55 flip
    July 28, 2012

    @Mrs Woo

    My “biology” is hazy at best, and even then I have no doubt it was far more basic than your average high school biology class. I do remember some minor things about heredity and cell structure, but that’s about it. Unfortunately for me, I have real trouble learning facts and figures, and so even with a curious mind now, struggle to understand a lot of the scientific concepts out there. (I am however wishing I retained more of my high school psych classes, which were it turns out, incredibly skeptical, reality based and would be extremely useful now in later life) I had a good private-school education; but reading more about pseudoscience tells me perhaps it was better than I thought and better than most people received.

    I am extremely lucky that there are people like Orac, and the commenters here and at other blogs, who can explain things in more palatable terms. Critical thinking is possible to learn: I am but one example where stumbling onto an image (astronomy) lead me to learn about logical fallacies.

    Perhaps that’s why I find it all so odd – I’m one of those people who were probably predisposed to being skeptical (cynical really) and the above “cancer = cell division” thing just sounds a bit too silly for me to think most people would be taken in by it. You’d think, anyway….

    @Spectator, @Mrs Woo

    You can subscribe to comment threads now with the update to WordPress. Usually you can find a subscribe option somewhere in your browser (I use Firefox, so it’s under “Bookmarks”, “Subscribe to this page”, and then choose either the subscribe to all comments or subscribe to a single comment thread. (Presumably the single comment thread option will only appear when browsing that particular post, as compared to the main blog page)

  56. #56 Skeptigal
    July 28, 2012

    Several administrations of both political parties have left scientific R & D to private concerns. The notion that businesses would spend money to research medicine altruistically is preposterous. Important drugs that don’t generate sufficient profit aren’t manufactured, the public loses.

  57. #57 Antaeus Feldspar
    July 28, 2012

    There’s a link on the right-hand pane under the “Meta” heading marked “Comments RSS.” That’s probably the URL you’d put into a feed reader , but I don’t know if it would show you the new comments on that post or on all posts.

  58. #58 Elizabeth Gilhuly
    July 30, 2012

    Life is worse on the Gerson Therapy? Try asking patients like Jessica Ainscough. You can Google her. It is important to consider who is conducting the scientific experiments that you’re basing your opinions on. Many don’t actually follow true scientific process. There is much commonly found treatment processes that are based on flawed science. If one is a true scientist and during the study finds any factors that are converse, one must re-consider the hypothesis. For example, there have been dozens of studies conducted all over the world since the 1930s that show high cholesterol does not cause atherosclerosis. People with low cholesterol just the same as people with high have experienced atherosclerosis. Read the studies for yourself, you will see. It is important to separate those studies conducted by entities striving to increase profit from those that have nothing to gain by a particular result.

  59. [...] was the pinnacle (or should that be ‘the depths’?) of silliness, you’d be wrong. Dr Huertgen has competition. It was previously believed that sheep were the best donor animals because of their five or six [...]

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