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Read Original Story

U finds pig cells can treat diabetes

Rating

2 Star

U finds pig cells can treat diabetes

Our Review Summary

This story is about research that reversed the course of diabetes in monkeys by transplanting islet cells from pigs — “giving renewed hope that a better treatment, or even a cure, may soon be available.” The story did not explain that this research was done in only 12 monkeys followed for only up to 6 months and that some monkeys rejected the transplant. If the story had included such facts, readers would have been able to better judge the use of the term “cure” and the projection that this may “soon” be available. The story didn’t even include the researcher’s own projection that human trials may be three years away. So how should people with diabetes define “soon”? The story provides no data from the trial, and includes only comments from the principal investigator without any independent second opinion from another researcher.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No projection of cost was given. Some comparison could have been made based on the current costs of human-to-human islet cell transplants.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no discussion of the potential harms of an islet cell transplant.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story provides no data on the trial. Readers should be told that this was done in only a dozen monkeys and the followup time was only six months. Some monkeys rejected the cell transplants. These are critical facts. If you’re going to cover animal research and make the leap to possible use in humans, it’s important to tell the whole story.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

The story states that “Roughly 20 million people in the U.S. have diabetes.” But even the framing of the University news release announcing this finding puts in the context only of “the tens of thousands of people with difficult-to-manage diabetes.” The statistical framing of the story is potentially misleading.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The only scientific expert interviewed was the lead investigator. That is insufficient, especially when the story lets the investigator get away with saying his approach “might have the fastest track to human clinical trials.” Why didn’t the journalist provide the perspective of other scientists to counter that subjective opinion from an investigator with a clear vested interest in the prospects of his own research?

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story discusses human islet cell transplants and “the potential to transplant human stem cells that grow new islet cells in the pancreas.”

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

Story states that “More research is required before pig-to-human transplants can take place.” But the reporter overrules that caveat with the enthusiastic line that the research gives “renewed hope that a better treatment, or even a cure, may soon be available.” The story does not include the researcher’s own projection that human trials may be three years away. So how much further away might a true treatment be? How should patients define “soon”?

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story makes it clear that human islet cell transplants have been done, and even that other animal-to-animal islet cell transplants have been done.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

Does not appear to rely solely on a news release.

Total Score: 3 of 10 Satisfactory

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