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Bitter Taste Receptors Found in Lungs May Aid Asthma Patients


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Bitter Taste Receptors Found in Lungs May Aid Asthma Patients

Our Review Summary

At least the University that issued the news release must be happy.

For comparison, an Associated Press story at least gave some context by saying "that discovery might one day lead to better treatments for diseases such as asthma" and that the research team "hopes to begin tests in humans within a year."   We didn’t get that from this story.


Why This Matters

Readers should expect journalists to do independent reporting to vet research claims that are made – even those from university news researchers.  That didn’t happen in this story.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  Despite how unclear the story is about what an early stage of research this is in, it IS very early – too early to project drug costs. So we can’t criticize the story for not discussing costs. But we can’t praise it for being so unclear about the early research either.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story merely stated that "The researchers tested different bitter compounds on human and mouse airways, individual airway smooth muscle cells, and on mice with asthma. They found that these compounds all opened lung airways more profoundly than current drugs."  It’s not clear from that statement how the human airway testing was done, nor how significant the opening was.

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

Not Satisfactory

There was no discussion of potential harms from the predicted "completely new approach."

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

Not Satisfactory

This is the core of our criticism.  There is not one word of caution about jumping to conclusions from such early research.  The final sentence admits the research is "preliminary" but no context is given for what that means and no caveats are provided about what is still unknown or what could go wrong between this stage and eventual – possible – drug development and human use.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Applicable

The story includes none of the material from the news release – upon which it’s clearly based – that would have given some idea of the extent of the problem with asthma and COPD.  Because it doesn’t give any such background about asthma or lung problems, we rule this not applicable.

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

Not Satisfactory

There was no perspective given from any independent expert.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

There was no comparision with existing drugs – only the prediction that "This could replace or enhance what is now in use, and represents a completely new approach." 

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

Not Satisfactory

The opening line says the "finding might lead to improved treatments" but there is never anything more substantive than that to help readers understand how far from human use this idea may be.  In fact, a researcher’s quote – taken from a news release – may even confuse readers into thinking this is imminent when he is allowed to say "New drugs…are needed.  This could replace or enhance what is now in use and represents a completely new approach."  When?  Now?  Tomorrow?  Next year?  What hurdles are yet to be cleared?  

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The story gives no context for how this research fits into the broader picture of research in this field.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story appears to be just a rewrite of a university news release with no independent reporting.

Total Score: 0 of 8 Satisfactory


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