This story establishes the small scope of the story up high. It brings in one outside voice and is more cautious than the other two stories in describing the number of people affected by corneal conditions. It also is the only story to use a dollar figure when discussing the costs and to put an actual number to the degree of improvement in people’s vision. The story would have received a higher score had it explained a little bit more about the study’s limitations and explained how this procedure likely will not be available for many years, if ever.
This story was similar to the Reuters story but packed in more information and did not rely largely on the press release. It shows that even with limited space and time, a reporter can pull together the relevant facts to present readers with most of the context they need.
This is the only story of the three reviewed to discuss costs. As for cost, Griffith said the biosynthetic corneas "in theory" should be cheaper than donated corneas. Griffith said a German study recently found that donated corneas cost about $2,500.
The benefits are quantified about as well as in the other two stories, and the story avoids putting the benefits in relative terms. The one big advantage of this story is that it puts a number to the vision improvement. "We were pleasantly surprised that in six patients, vision improved from about 20/400 to 20/100, meaning that these patients could see objects four times farther away than before the operation," said Griffith, director of the Integrative Regenerative Medicine Center at Linkoping University in Sweden.
The story explains that there were no adverse side effects. It should have been clear that the patients were followed for two years.
The story does a better job than the Reuters story but not as good a job as WebMD in evaluating the quality of the evidence. It could have provided more details about the limitations of the study.
The story avoids disease mongering and actually presents a more conservative estimate of the number of people affected by corneal disorders. An estimated 5 million people in the world have an eye disease called trachoma that affects the cornea, and another 1.5 million to 2 million are thought to have developed cornea-related blindness through other diseases or trauma.
The story includes one independent source who is basically a booster for the research. He also, though, raises an issue that underscores some of the information lacking in the story. The story also could have explained what the funding sources were.
The story does compare the treatment to human corneal transplants. It could have talked about plastic corneas, too. Dr. Mark J. Mannis, the one independent source in the story refers to a "repertoire of corneal transplant surgeons." What else is in that repertoire? It would be nice to know, and it would be even nicer to know how this procedure stacks up against the other options in terms of costs and benefits.
The only hint that this research is preliminary is toward the end when the story says, The next step in research, Griffith said, is to create a "new generation" of cornea implants and test them on a wider variety of patients. This actually sounds actually more optimistic than the comments from Griffith in the press release, leading one to believe that she was more cautious than this sentence implies.
The novelty of the procedure is not established.
The story goes beyond the news release, but, like the Reuters story, does not actually present the evidence with the same caveats and caution that come through in the news release and in the WebMD story.