Recommended reads: pig heart transplant, lasers, $11K pub fee


The fact that a person for the first time has received a heart transplant from a pig and it was a genetically modified pig made big news this week. Organ transplant waiting lists are a huge problem so if this kind of approach can be proven to be safe and effective, it would be a big step forward.

It’s early days though and just one patient so let’s take it step by step.

heart transplant
A living heart about to be transplanted. Image from Korozia45. Creative Commons license.

CRISPR gene-editing continues to make headlines including related to major financial deals like the new one involving Pfizer. I have to admit when CRISPR was first getting popular as a method in the lab not that many years ago it seemed like clinical applications might be a long way off. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how fast things have moved forward.

Stem cells and lasers

Nabiha Saklayen: Could lasers make stem cell therapy available to everyone?, Ted Radio Hour on NPR. An interesting story about using lasers to remove non-reprogrammed cells during reprogramming to make iPS cells. What a clever idea. You can see her TED talk above that includes clips of the use of the laser in culture.

Holmes verdict draws more reactions

Derek Lowe on the Elizabeth Holmes verdict over at his In The Pipeline blog. He has some very interesting thoughts on how those working in Silicon Valley may tend to view the biomedical space in an artificially constrained kind of way because of the work they are used to doing. It got me thinking more about how those folks who are outside the cell biology space may view things quite differently than those of us working within it. Does a chemist sometimes view cells more like molecules? How does a lawyer or accountant or YouTuber tend to think about cells?  These different views can be useful in bringing in new ideas and viewpoints, but when working toward a therapy some caution is needed too.

How much should it cost to publish an article?

If you look at the Tweet above from Nature Neuroscience you can see a fee that seems insane.

More than $11K to publish an article?

Even non-open-access fees are so sky-high these days at many journals. While some publishers have programs to help those scientists and institutions that cannot afford their exorbitant fees, how often are they used? What about the sizable dents that publishing fees make in the budgets of standard R01s or other grants? That’s money that could be going to the actual research costs. As someone rightly pointed out on Twitter discussing this $11K fee, journals don’t even pay reviewers anything.

Do some publishers need a “heart transplant” in the sense of being more sensitive to science budgets?

Issues on Sanford Health article on ongoing trial

I reached out to writer Simon Floss at  Sanford Health a few weeks back with some questions on a promotional piece he wrote that raised some concerns for me. The title is “Cell therapy helps Sanford patient get back to racecourse.” The subtitle is, “When old injuries slowed down an endurance athlete, a clinical trial offered treatment.”

The piece highlighted the supposed striking recovery of an arthritis clinical trial participant, Steven Fisher. The main issue here is that the trial is ongoing so there is no published data on whether it is actually working and is safe.

This raises several questions.

Is it appropriate to issue marketing material on a clinical trial participant while the trial is not finished? Did Fisher and other participants have to pay to be in the trial?

Is Sanford charging others who are not in the trial in parallel to get the experimental offering?

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