You might remember my post from last October:
On Twitter and elsewhere, homeopaths have been celebrating: FINALLY A PROOF OF HOMEOPATHY HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN A TOP SCIENCE JOURNAL!!!
Here is just one example:
#homeopathy under threat because of lack of peer reviewed studies in respectable journals? Think again. Study published in the most prestigious journal Nature shows efficacy of rhus tox in pain control in rats.
But what exactly does this study show (btw, it was not published in ‘Nature’)?
The authors of the paper in question evaluated antinociceptive efficacy of Rhus Tox in the neuropathic pain and delineated its underlying mechanism. Initially, in-vitro assay using LPS-mediated ROS-induced U-87 glioblastoma cells was performed to study the effect of Rhus Tox on reactive oxygen species (ROS), anti-oxidant status and cytokine profile. Rhus Tox decreased oxidative stress and cytokine release with restoration of anti-oxidant systems. Chronic treatment with Rhus Tox ultra dilutions for 14 days ameliorated neuropathic pain revealed as inhibition of cold, warm and mechanical allodynia along with improved motor nerve conduction velocity (MNCV) in constricted nerve. Rhus Tox decreased the oxidative and nitrosative stress by reducing malondialdehyde (MDA) and nitric oxide (NO) content, respectively along with up regulated glutathione (GSH), superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase activity in sciatic nerve of rats. Notably, Rhus Tox treatment caused significant reductions in the levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interleukin-1β (IL-1β) as compared with CCI-control group. Protective effect of Rhus Tox against CCI-induced sciatic nerve injury in histopathology study was exhibited through maintenance of normal nerve architecture and inhibition of inflammatory changes. Overall, neuroprotective effect of Rhus Tox in CCI-induced neuropathic pain suggests the involvement of anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
END OF QUOTE
I am utterly under-whelmed by in-vitro experiments (which are prone to artefacts) and animal studies (especially those with a sample size of 8!) of homeopathy. I think they have very little relevance to the question whether homeopathy works.
But there is more, much more!
It has been pointed out that there are several oddities in this paper which are highly suspicious of scientific misconduct or fraud. It has been noted that the study used duplicated data figures that claimed to show different experimental results, inconsistently reported data and results for various treatment dilutions in the text and figures, contained suspiciously identical data points throughout a series of figures that were reported to represent different experimental results, and hinged on subjective, non-blinded data from a pain experiment involving just eight rats.
Lastly, others pointed out that even if the data is somehow accurate, the experiment is unconvincing. The fast timing differences of paw withdraw is subjective. It’s also prone to bias because the researchers were not blinded to the rats’ treatments (meaning they could have known which animals were given the control drug or the homeopathic dilution). Moreover, eight animals in each group is not a large enough number from which to draw firm conclusions, they argue.
As one consequence of these suspicions, the journal has recently added the following footnote to the publication:
10/1/2018 Editors’ Note: Readers are alerted that the conclusions of this paper are subject to criticisms that are being considered by the editors. Appropriate editorial action will be taken once this matter is resolved.
Well, it took a while, but now there is some news about this case:
‘Science Reports’, just published a retraction note:
Retraction of: Scientific Reports https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-31971-9, published online 10 September 2018
Following publication, the journal received criticisms regarding the rationale of this study and the plausibility of its central conclusions. Expert advice was obtained, and the following issues were determined to undermine confidence in the reliability of the study.
The in vitro model does not support the main conclusion of the paper that Rhus Tox reduces pain. The qualitative and quantitative composition of the Rhus Tox extract is unknown. Figures 1G and 1H are duplicates; and figures 1I and 1J are duplicates. The majority of experimental points reported in figure 3 panel A are duplicated in figure 3 panel B. The collection, description, analysis and presentation of the behavioural data in Figure 3 is inadequate and cannot be relied upon.
As a result the editors are retracting the Article. The authors do not agree with the retraction.
Does that mean the suspect paper has been declared fraudulent?
I think so.
In any case: another victory of reason over unreason!