More Fakes in the Science Laboratory
Fake news is not just a problem in politics.
The problem of fake research in science has long been recognized as serious threat to science, especially in the field of evolution. (See the new book by Jerry Bergman Darwinism’s Frauds, Blunders and Forgeries. Atlanta, GA: CMI Publishing. 2017). A new study has now even found evidence of fake reagents, chemicals central to much science research! The review, titled “The Secret War Against Counterfeit Science” was published in Nature (545:148-149; May 15, 2017). The story begins:
In 2013, Huang Song walked into a printing shop in northwestern Beijing and stumbled upon evidence of a brazen and widespread criminal enterprise. Huang was just 15 kilometers from Beijing’s National Institute of Biological Sciences, where he does synthetic-biology research. Scouting out a small desktop machine to produce the hundreds of labels needed for his experiments, he asked if a certain model could print on heat-resistant paper. The shop owner proudly pulled out some samples he had made for customers using the same machine.
These labels looked exactly like those found on expensive antibodies and reagents produced by the leading Western Labs, including Abcam and Cell Signaling Technology. They were produced in order to fool buyers into thinking that the products they were purchasing were the pure quality product. For Professor Huang, it directly corroborated what he and his colleagues had long suspected: many of the antibodies sold by Chinese distributors were counterfeits. As a result, the diluted research reagents, or even outright fakes, were on the world market. This means an untold number of medical and biological research results were suspect. The problem could also undermine China’s efforts to become a world leader in science research.
The only way to find out what studies have been compromised is to replicate many thousands of past research studies, something that will never happen.
Antibodies are proteins produced by the body in response to encountering a specific antigen, such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Antibodies can also be produced by various artificial means, such as when antibodies specific to a pathogen or toxin obtained from humans, horses, or other animals are transferred to non-immune persons. Antibodies chemically combine with things that the body recognizes as a problem to destroy or neutralize them.
An example of what can happen when inferior antibodies are used is, six months after publishing a paper, one scientist discovered that he could not repeat the results of his experiments. After reviewing the normal trouble shooting problems, he discovered that a reagent used to introduce DNA into cells was likely counterfeit. The only way to find out what studies have been compromised is to replicate many thousands of past research studies, something that will never happen. How many other similar examples have occurred will likely be forever unknown, partly due to the reason that much research is not replicated because the rewards in science are for new discoveries, not for repeating some other scientists’ research. This problem just adds to the already well documented problem of research results that were deliberately faked in order to prove some theory or result to obtain research grants or other rewards.