Modern Day Issues in Biology

The PISCES stud’s and analysis is major first clinical trial of a neural stem cell therapy for stroke patients ever in the world. It has undergone its first trial where the treatment was given to a small number of people to see if it is safe. The idea being the use of stem cells for stroke patients. Over 150,000 people have a stroke each year with the Ischaemic stroke making up 80% of cases which is why if this treatment is effective it can help improve the quality of life of many victims and their families. This type of stroke is caused by the blood supply to an area of the brain being cut off by a blood clot. It can result in a loss of speech and language. The first study, examined the safety of stem cell therapy. 9 people in the study experienced no adverse effects and improvements in stroke-related symptoms. There are 2 different types of stem cells, embryonic (found in embryos), and stem cells found in the bone marrow. The importance of stem cells is that they can renew themselves and can repair damaged tissues and fight disease. During Ischaemic strokes, the lack of blood supply starves brain cells of oxygen causing them to die. By using this treatment, it is hopeful that they will naturally repair small amounts of brain damage and fuel the repair process thanks to the stem cells.

Does Treatment Always Work?

Gordie Howe was a right-winger for the Detroit Red Wings who died aged 88. In Oct 2014 Howe had a debilitating stroke, the family got a call from Dave McGuigan, the marketing chief at Stemedia (a stem cell manufacturer) said that an injection of up to 100 million neural stem cells into his spinal cord would help his body repair itself. After treatment, not only was he physically better but there were significant cognitive improvements after treatment, he previously suffered from dementia, it was seen as a “medical miracle”. However, the biggest gripe is that a single-subject anecdote cannot prove the treatment given. The human body has such complexity and many people who are sick will get better for various reasons, for example, stroke patients get better after a few months. The only way to prove that this treatment really worked would be comparing stroke victims who get the treatment to a group of stroke patients (the bigger the sample size the better). However, the biggest problem was the media coverage of this story. The media is the best example of a platform reporting bad science when they amplify a storyline, providing exaggerated ideas, and giving false hope to the most vulnerable. Many people learned fast about Howe’s case and many experts were bringing up concerns about the case however were ignored. Media can give many misleading promises and unrealistic expectations as well as devaluing methodical approaches to research Caulfield exclaimed. Caulfield has blamed the press. The fact that people were desperately racing to the $35,000 experimental treatment based over one “inspiring” anecdote implies that something has gone seriously wrong in the way we communicate science to the public. Most news articles nowadays have very little scientific evidence within the articles for example, during the Coronavirus pandemic, the press were victims in creating mass fear within the public.

Wider insight within the science behind the trial and factual information

The article published by the University of Glasgow regarding the PISCES trial seems very credible. As it contains information not only about the first trial but the upcoming trial and what it’s aims are as well as progress with the patients. They haven’t overexaggerated or given exaggerated promises to the readers and haven’t said that the trial has been approved or that it will necessarily work. It gives a wider insight into the science behind the trial and factual information about strokes in general. The fact that is has been written by a university also makes it a more respective analysis of the trial, in comparison to journalists in which the article about Gordie Howe’s case was said to hold very little knowledge about the subject.