XMRV: More nails in the coffin

Except that the title could be “More nails from the Coffin”, given the involvement of someone of that name in amassing the growing weight of evidence against XMRV as an actual natural pathogen – but I digress.

The Nature News blog of 31st May has a very damning collation of views and evidence from around the scientific community – but chief among these is the fact that Science, which published the original paper describing the finding of XMRV in human-derived specimens, has called on the authors to retract it.  The evidence – partly gathered by John Coffin – seems clear: XMRV is a recombinant retrovirus which is a chimaera of two mouse viruses which got into cells derived from a human prostate tumour when these were cocultured with mouse cells.  It is not a “natural” virus, but a laboratory accident; it probably has no relevance to any human disease.

Another interesting and more philosophical view derived from the XMRV saga is that of The Independent, of 3rd June: Steve Connor in “Science Studies” points out that this is, in fact, how science really works – or should work.  That is, that someone publishes something that is really interesting – but which becomes contentious because other can’t replicate it, and eventually is wholly or partially discredited.  All out in the open, in the scientific press.

Some folk – acting with perfect hindsight – then bemoan the fact that the original article was published at all; others are horrified at the waste of money as people dig around and around in the same hole.  What they forget is that progress has been made, whether or not the initial revelation was in fact true.  And that is how science should work.

And because of that sort of iteration, XMRV is going the same way as cold fusion, folks.  And here’s a goodbye….

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4 Responses to “XMRV: More nails in the coffin”

  1. ERV Says:

    Some folk – acting with perfect hindsight – then bemoan the fact that the original article was published at all; others are horrified at the waste of money as people dig around and around in the same hole. What they forget is that progress has been made, whether or not the initial revelation was in fact true. And that is how science should work.

    I disagree, to a degree.

    The original paper should not have gone beyond Figure 1. If they had sequenced their PCR products, they would have seen they were all VP62. All of the sequences uploaded by the WPI are absolutely indistinguishable from VP62. But instead of being practical, they chose to be sensational, making huge leaps from PCR to antibodies in patients to “LOOK! HERES A VIRUS!”

    Everyone wants to be a superstar.

    No one wants to do basic, well controlled, quality research.

    ‘Science’ has been all too happy to encourage that.

    And now we are stuck with a troupe of nutbar scientists, accusing any/every researcher who is ‘against’ them of fraud/bribery/worshiping Hitler, refusing to retract their paper. A normal, sane scientist who subsequently determined that their research was not only not reproducible, but the result of contamination, thus all of the conclusions therein were irreparably wrong, would retract. THAT is how science works. That’s not how this group is ‘working’, thus we are going to keep throwing time/money down this sinkhole.

    Under normal circumstances, I would say you are right.

    But the XMRV story isn’t normal at all.

  2. Tim Says:

    The recent sequences uploaded to the GenBank are a different variant. ERV, good job you are still at school, as you can’t tell the difference between them. We won’t be stuck with your brand of nutty, creationist rubbish for much longer. Bye!

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