February 25, 2013

ME/CFS: "It's all contamination!"

" It's all human - an unwillingness to throw away hours and hours of what was thought to be good research...worries about jeopardizing another grant that's being applied for, the hurrying to come out with a paper first. And it isn't limited to biology and cancer research. Scientists in many endeavors all make mistakes, and they all have the same problems."
Walter Nelson-Rees


1. "It is contamination!"
2.  The relevance to ME/CFS
About ME/CFS


Yesterday I forgot to update the introduction (which I have introduced and maintained to have a place to fit in some continuity, context and references for the texts I write in Nederlog), that was the one for the Nederlog of the day before. I uploaded the corrections today. Also, there now is a new version of the index for 2013. [1]

And the rest of this is a brief Nederlog about the subjects of contamination and medical science, that may be regarded as a follow-up to ME/CFS: Several causes - many confusions  of February 6, last.

1. "It is contamination!"

Almost three weeks ago, I provided a link to a video of the press conference where dr. Ian Lipkin and with Drs Alter, Mikovits and Ruscetti, explained why he and they thought that the original finding of XMRV in blood of patients with ME/CFS was due to contamination.

Here it is again for your convenience, starting at the place where Dr Lipkin explains it is contamination:

LipkinEtAlPressConferenceClicking the image leads to 17 min 16 seconds into the video with drs Lipkin, Alter and Mikovits

The next day, I mentioned Adam Curtis, an English documentary filmer, who turns out to have made quite a few quite interesting documentaries, and this Nerderlog is about one of them: "Modern Times: The way of all flesh", featuring Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951)
Henrietta Lacks 1920-1951
Clicking the image leads to the Wikipedia article about her

and some of her cells, that seem immortal, and that have lived on since the more than 60 years since she died, and meanwhile have been used in a lot of medical research.

Henrietta Lacks died in October 1951, but before her death from cancer some of a tumor growing in her cervix had been isolated, which turned out to keep multiplying when kept in a Petri dish, which was an absolute first, and which soon inspired hope that this discovery might help find a cure for cancer.

The story is complicated, and told by Adam Curtis in his nearly one hour long documentary of 1997

which is quite interesting if you are interested in science, medicine, cancer or indeed racial discrimination, for the last enters because Lacks' family was kept in the dark for a long time about the fact that long after her death there were many more of her cells living and dividing, in Petri dishes, in laboratories all over the world, than her own body had had while she lived.

It is interesting for patients with ME/CFS because a considerable part of the story is about the fact that her cells, known in science as HeLa cells, turned out to have contaminated a large number of cell cultures in many laboratories, even including the Soviet Union.

This was discovered in the sixties and seventies, and most of the documentary is about that fact, and about the HeLa cells' inspiration, before the discovery of the  widespread contamination, of "the war on cancer", that was subscribed to and funded (in part) by presidents Johnson and Nixon.

As with the XMRV-research and the cause of ME/CFS, the scientific net result of "the war on cancer" and finding its cause, was nought: Where at one stretch of time, many medical scientists believed there were great hopes for discovering a virus as the cause for cancer, after it was discovered that many cell-lines, even in Russia, had been contaminated with HeLa cells, the fundaments for these theories had been pulled away, and indeed in the US the funding for "the war on cancer" ceased or got much diminished.

There are, however, two considerable differences with the XMRV-research: HeLa cells have been and still are widely used in medical research of quite a few different kinds, as can be found by way of the last link. And XMRV-research was initially propelled by the notion that if XMRV would turn out to be the cause of ME/CFS, then there would have been discovered a quite dangerous retrovirus.

2. The relevance to ME/CFS

If you have followed the XMRV-saga, as I have, from October 9, 2009, when I first was informed about it by mail, till October 8, 2011, when I decided - based on what I had meanwhile read by others: I have no relevant medical or bio-chemical expertise, and never pretended any - that very probably it was contamination and/or flawed science, and if, like me and like almost all patients with the symptoms of ME/CFS, you have no medical degree, and know little about contamination in medical  laboratories, "The way of all flesh" is a quite interesting documentary.

It helps that it also is an interesting documentary regardless of ME/CFS, but it does shed light on the XMRV-saga, because it shows how easy laboratory contamination can happen, and also how long this may remain unknown, for it took quite a while to be found out and established, and also bruised quite a few egos and upset a considerable number of investigations into the cause(s) of cancer.

To end this, here is a bit from the HeLa cells article in Wikipedia:

Contamination is a larger issue than many like to believe or consider. Taken directly from the ICLAC webpage: "The International Cell Line Authentication Committee (ICLAC) aim to make cell line misidentification more visible and to promote awareness and authentication testing as effective ways to combat it. Regrettably, cross-contamination and misidentification are still common within the research community. Many cell lines were cross-contaminated during establishment; this means that all work using those cell lines has incorrectly used the contaminant – which may come from a different species or a different tissue. A cell line is considered to be misidentified if it no longer corresponds to the individual from whom it was first established. Many cases of misidentification are caused by cross-contamination, where another, faster growing, cell line is introduced into that culture. Authentication testing is an effective way to combat cell line misidentification. In 2011, the ATCC SDO published a standard on authentication testing of human cell lines. ICLAC was formed after publication of the standard to provide guidance and an on-going focus for improvement in this area."

[1] The reason was that I found that the index had been expanded by KompoZer - a WYSIWYG html-editor  I am condemned to use on Linux to maintain my site, and which has quite a few bugs - to well over 100 Kb because it had introduced lots of unnecessary formatting tags. Today it is 25 Kb.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search
machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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