Not long ago a colleague and I were informally reviewing recent journal articles and happened to come across a journal article that came from an Asian nation. The first thing we asked ourselves was, “can we really believe the data?” What was funny was that both myself and my colleague were Asian. Not that this excuses us from discrimination even upon our own Asian brethren, but we thought it comical how people that could very well be distant relatives (or even close relatives) did not carry in our subconscious valid research at first glance. But this issue has subtly nagged our field for too long now and cannot be ignored anymore.
Whether it is ethnocentrism or direct discrimination that compels anyone to believe that only one group or country holds dominion over credible science is difficult to elucidate and is not the goal of this author. Granted, historical embarrassment with false data on human cloning has continued to plague the reputation of one Asian nation in ways unanticipated and some in the scientific community feel deservedly so. And comparatively research colleagues in the United States face professional , legal and personal repercussions to publication of falsified data at a level exponentially above many other countries (i.e. deep investigation by the National Bureau of Standards and risk of permanent disbarment from research grants and potential jail sentencing). This leads many to conclude that since the penalties are so high the likelihood of “truthful” data is secure for lawful and organized countries of the modern Western world. Some of this has translated into a dismissiveness toward science from smaller countries altogether, which is disappointing on many levels.
Are we to believe that science can only be done in specific countries and even cultures? This concept has been touted by many a tyrant and dictator throughout history. (I leave the readers to pick whichever infamous one comes to mind first.)
Our colleagues in the Caribbean Island Nations, Latino Nations and Japan have independently decided to take upon very ambitious, brave and daring research and legislative initiatives in regenerative medicine. Will the remaining scientific community feel that in absence of FDA or EMA equivalent ethical or regulatory standards, the data generated will be “inferior” or “unworthy” or even inadmissible towards influencing any potential relaxation or modification of regulations in regenerative medicine?
Evidence based advocates also are too quick to point that many studies coming from developing nations are largely anecdotal and observational and lament the absence of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). But are not even observational studies and anecdotal studies considered a part of evidence base medicine? Correct me if I am wrong, but was not the original study of John Snow (the very “father” of modern epidemiology and evidence based medicine) an observational study and NOT a RCT? Why for the field of regenerative medicine must everything be RCT to pass litmus for even consideration? There is something disingenuous about this overly strict standard as even at the fulfillment of a RCT, Vioxx and other drugs were able to become FDA approved, but only after a very difficult post-market wrangling actually found deleterious from the distal seeds of… you guessed it… ANECDOTAL reports. Indeed the cost of definitive RCTs may be beyond that of even some sovereign nations, but whatever data is generated, this author sincerely hopes it will be taken with sincere respect and legitimate review. In the spirit of international collaboration and cooperation lets promise to keep an open mind as this new data is generated and let the world get smaller… but let our minds not.
To cite this article
The Giant Elephant in Regenerative Medicine’s Room – Proceeding of the STEMSO Conference
CellR4 2014; 2 (1): e705
Published online: 04 Feb 2014