WARNING: Honesty in Scientific Publishing is Not Always a Given.
Nearly everyone, professionals and lay readers alike, assumes there is predictable and reliable honesty in published scientific literature. If not, how could researchers rely on and build upon one another’s work to move discovery and understanding forward? How could inexpert readers expect to learn and understand concepts and revelations to which they have not been previously exposed?
Regardless of discipline, we are all students learning at the knee of the experts among us. As a civilization, everyone stands on the shoulders of their predecessors. Publishing authors therefore have a critical and inescapable ethical duty to tell the truth. Failure to do so can have profound negative consequences.
Scientific dishonesty in academic journals has, in fact, killed people.
Worst Medical Hoax of the Past Century
A flagrant example is the falsehood promulgated throughout the world claiming a link between autism and vaccinations for mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR.) A study published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield (and others) in 1998 in the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, claimed the link existed and had been proved.
The claims in the published paper were widely reported, leading to a sharp drop in vaccination rates in many countries. Vaccination rates fell below 80% in the United Kingdom and Ireland, substantially lower than the 95% rate recommended by The World Health Organization. Disease numbers soared and there was a dramatic increase in the incidence of measles and mumps, resulting in needless deaths and serious permanent injuries of many children.
Promotion of the claimed link, which continues to this day in anti-vaccination propaganda despite being fully refuted, continues to extract a price in morbidity and mortality among the world’s youngsters. Misinformed, yet presumably well-intentioned parents, can irreparably damage their offspring and endanger others. Herd immunity is real but only if enough members of the herd participate. As the world suffers the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the availability of effective vaccine approaches, a sizable portion of society is now voicing their opposition to being vaccinated, sentiments very likely based on this discredited study from two decades ago.
This is serious stuff.
The fraudulent study linking autism and vaccines has been characterized as “the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years.” The chief author was stripped of his medical license in the U.K. because he had been “dishonest, irresponsible, and showed callous disregard for the distress and pain of children.” The study was formally retracted in 2010, but the damage was done. It had real world impact – negative impact – which continues to this day.
Unsolicited Notice to BFT of Maguire’s Attacks
Over a period of a few weeks, several BFT readers contacted us to describe disparaging statements made about your hosts and the science of our products in YouTube videos featuring Greg Maguire, PhD, co-founder & Chief Scientific Officer of NeoGenesis Inc. We were also made aware of a “review” article published by Maguire that added extensive chapter and verse detail to his assault. We consider the videos sister publications to that article published August 1, 2019 in The Journal of Cosmetic and Aesthetic Dermatology (JCAD) entitled:
“Safe and Efficacious Use of Secretome From Fibroblasts and Adipose-derived (but not Bone Marrow-derived) Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Skin Therapeutics.”
We are not suggesting that Maguire’s behavior is another “100-year medical hoax” in progress. What we are saying is, based on a thorough review by internationally renowned and esteemed academicians in the stem cell field (discussed below), Maguire’s “review” falls substantially and significantly short of what is expected in medical publishing. These experts’ opinion is the Maguire article is a not-so-well-disguised attack upon a commercial competitor and little more. That’s our take on it, too.
Maguire knows better. If he doesn’t, he should.
The Title Alone is Revealing
Obvious from the article’s title, and the mention within the text of one single brand of competing product to NeoGenesis, Dr. Maguire’s true intention is exposed: to single out and damage a specific commercial competitor – AnteAGE of Irvine, California. We have been informed his videos further attempt to sully your hosts’ professional credentials and tarnish our brands.
We have no issue with competition. Robust competition in the marketplace is fine. Using a scientific publication to attack a commercial competitor, however, is not. Especially when the article content appears to have been deliberately manipulated and distorted to fit the author’s malign objective.
The content of his article, and the references he cites to support and bolster his statements and conclusions, were subjected to precise, careful and exacting examination by true experts in the field. The results of that examination do not flatter Dr. Maguire.
The following paragraph from Maguire’s article is filled with purported “facts” – facts that have absolutely nothing to do with the science of AnteAGE and AnteAGE MD products.
“We must also consider that tumor cells and mesenchymal stem cells migrate from the primary tumor site to the bone marrow and therefore, using BMSCs and their secretome for therapeutic development or for skincare products (AnteAGE®; Irvine, California) might be compromised by a cancer phenotype, as well as the likelihood of inducing inflammation, over proliferation, fibrosis, and replicative stress.”
The supporting references Maguire cites also have nothing to do with our science. They are off point and the assertions, if one is discussing our science, are preposterous. We have oranges, he’s talking apples. This is reprehensible conduct by someone who should and must know better, but then again, his manifest purpose appears to be impugning and maligning a NeoGenesis competitor, and little else.
Two Hundred Thirty References?
The Maguire article contains many “assertions” and “facts”, with 230 cited references that purportedly support his text. This is an unusually large number, according to editage.com, a website that provides services to the scientific and technical publishing industry. More typical for an article of this length is 100 to 120 references. Why so many?
We suspect the large number was deliberate – an attempt to add finality and an exclamation point to Maguire’s treatise. To add heft and gravitas to his exposé and condemnation of the use of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell-derived biosignals in skincare.
You know, “use the biggest hammer possible to drive that pesky stubborn nail into submission.”
Other Expert Stem Cell Scientists Noticed
University professors and academics with unassailable credentials in stem cell science agree with us. Part of their professional duty is to stay abreast of the published literature in their field. They too noticed the Maguire article. Eyebrows were raised. Curiosity was piqued. In-depth scrutiny ensued, resulting in a letter to the editor of the journal suggesting that the Maguire article be retracted.
These highly credentialed scientists have authored and published many hundreds of scientific articles and several book chapters. They lecture globally on a regular basis. They are extremely well qualified to critique Maguire’s article. Their published works are cited as references in scientific publications by other academicians over and over and over. Their conclusions carry weight.
Scientific Research and Publishing Conduct has Stringent Rules
Like every other area of human endeavor, regimented and regulated “rules” have been developed and promulgated through the decades to create “guide rails” of behavior in all areas of science – conducting research, assembling and gathering data, publishing being but a few of many.
The peer-reviewed process is in place to ensure the veracity and integrity of materials submitted for publishing in accredited scientific journals. “Peers” are competent experts in the exact same field in which the article is published. They are the peers of the author(s).
The role of peer review:
“Peer review is the system used to assess the quality of a manuscript before it is published. Independent researchers in the relevant research area assess submitted manuscripts for originality, validity and significance to help editors determine whether a manuscript should be published in their journal.”
Clearly, peer review is important in the process of dissemination of scientific information to the world. In fact, it’s critical, and for obvious reasons. If the content of a published article is untrue or misleading, it has no place in a journal upon which others rely.
But the process is not infallible. And the more intricate and detailed and picayune the content of an article, the greater chance there is to pull out the rubber stamp that says, “approved to publish.”
When and if any of our readers opens, let alone reads, the 230 references in the Maguire Article, it will become clear that articles of this type can slip through the cracks of any peer-review process. Dr. Maguire has woven a tapestry of “facts” dealing with the extraordinarily complex disciplines of molecular and cellular biology, riddled with references that themselves delve deeply into these complex fields of science. That’s a lot of details to contend with. That takes time and effort – a great deal of it. It’s hard to imagine peer reviewers diving into the article and the references sufficiently to uncover the full extent of Maguire’s mendacity.
The Maguire Article undergoes Academic Scrutiny
The university research team reviewed each of the 230 references and exposed an extensive pattern of improprieties. They wrote: “In reviewing this purported review paper, against a background of scientific consensus familiar to us, we found numerous easily identified errors, inconsistencies, and the appearance of extreme systematic bias in citation selection. “
They further observed that: “The author attempts to make the argument that bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (“BM-MSC’s”) and the molecules they secrete in culture are dangerous and oncogenic (tumor producing.) The author reprehensibly fails to distinguish between the two niches of stem cells within the bone marrow: (1) hematopoietic stem cells (HSC’s, the subject of much research because they form a foundation for bone marrow transplantation following irradiation for cancers affecting blood forming elements); and (2) BM-MSC’s. Proponents of bone marrow-derived secretory factors in regenerative medicine in general, and dermatology in particular, are not utilizing hematopoietic stem cells. This error is egregious, and completely stains the arguments he makes.”
In addition, the experts observed that: “ The author also thoroughly illustrates the potential pro-oncogenic effects of BM-MSCs, however, fails to mention the extensive peer-reviewed reporting of AD-MSCs (“fat stem cells”) facilitating tumorigenesis in multiple cancer models. This reflects another glaring problem with this paper: selection bias. The extant published literature contains many more studies that show concern about AD-MSCs than BM-MSCs. Such papers are conspicuously unaddressed in this review.”
These academic experts, well familiar with the peer review process and with credentials as to domain knowledge in stem cells, went further: “We provide a failsafe. If a paper is published that appears to fall outside the accepted norms for reliability and accuracy, it is our duty to report our suspicions.”
Five Types of Citation Errors were identified in Maguire’s Article
Errors in the Maguire article fall into the following categories:
- Misrepresentation of BM-MSCs (18 errors)
- Selective reporting of individual references (11 errors)
- Misrepresentation of reference findings (3 errors)
- Selective reporting of AD-MSC/BM-MSC functional differences (30 errors)
- Failure to cite references that directly countermand his article’s assertions
The last type of error may be the most egregious example of Maguire’s bias.
A large number of published articles directly refute the “conclusions” he makes in his article, yet he fails to cite them. Because they don’t support his narrative, which appears to be a deliberate intention to damage a commercial competitor, they were ignored. Dr. Maguire had a story to tell and sell. Contrary references were not welcome.
For instance, one review (Lee et al) identified eight studies that showed the positive anti-tumor impact of BM-MSCs compared to only one for AD-MSCs. Another review (Klopp et al) also found BM-MSCs favorable to AD-MSCs in their anti-tumor, anti-metastasis effect.
Maguire fails to mention or cite either of these articles. Indeed, the number of clinical trials (ongoing and completed) exploring the benefits of stem cell treatments has three times as many employing BM-MSCs compared to AD-MSCs.
Lee MW, Rye S, Kim DS et Mesenchymal stem cells in suppression or progression of hematologic malignancy: current status and challenges. Leukemia. 2019,33(3)597-611
Klopp AH, Gupta A, Spaeth E, et al. Concise review dissecting a discrepancy in the literature: do mesenchymal stem cells support or suppress tumor growth? Stem Cells. 2011;29(1):11-19
Maguire’s Apples to Oranges Comparison
Regular BFT readers are familiar with our several posts that discuss the use of conditioned media in skincare. As background, conditioned media can best be described as the nutritional broth derived from culturing cells in the laboratory after the liquid has undergone ultrafiltration to remove all cells and all cell parts and debris. Conditioned media contains all the growth factors, cytokines and other bio-signaling elements secreted by the cells during culture.
This is also referred to as the secretome, the same term Maguire uses in the title of his article. Yet, if you delve into the references with which he has peppered his article, most pertain to transplantation of cells, not to use of their secretome devoid of cells. These cannot be legitimately compared, certainly not in the context of topical products in skincare. Neither his product nor ours contain cells of any type. So why cite so many references that study the effects of transplanted cells, and not solely their secretome?
Again, this appears to be a deliberate effort. Maguire uses these references to support his arguments, but also to mislead the reader, nearly all of whom will not take the time to examine his references in detail. This is complex and detailed science with nuances that will be lost on most readers. What they are likely to remember, however, is the misleading and very unscientific title of Maguire’s article.
Experts’ Opinion: Misleading Hit Piece Posing as Scientific Review should be Retracted.
Was Maguire’s scientific dishonestly accidental?
Hardly possible. Our opinion is his behavior was intentional and shameful.
It should cast a pall of doubt and distrust on anything this man has published or will publish. This behavior should be condemned. The peer experts in stem cell science who examined his article wrote to the journal in which the Maguire article is published to recommend it be retracted.
We agree with the experts. Maguire’s paper should be retracted, and he should issue an apology for maligning us and our products. Ethical behavior apparently not his strong suit, we won’t hold our breath.
Most ironic, this attack and its fallout have done harm, much more to Dr. Maguire than to anyone else. We are certain that he never expected such scrutiny.
Maguire Review Fails to cite References Critical of Adipose Stem Cells
As recounted above, the stem cell experts who reviewed the Maguire paper were highly critical of his misuse of references. To bolster their point, they provided multiple references that directly contradict Maguire’s entire argument – that adipose stem cells are superior and bone marrow stem cells carry increased risks of cancer. The science indicates that it’s really the other way around.
These references strongly suggest that the greater risk of tumorigenesis is from the use of adipose stem cells, not mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow. When these references are considered, along with the many errors cited by these experts identified in the Maguire article, the conclusion is inescapable: the purpose of the Maguire article is to damage a commercial competitor to his company.
From a scientific perspective, the glaring errors in his article make it worthless. The opinion of internationally renowned academic stem cell experts is it is likely to misinform those who read it. We agree.
The Maguire “review” is not science. It’s dishonest marketing. In the world of scientific publishing, this is unethical and shameful behavior.
Contradictory References that Maguire Ignored & Excluded from his “Review”
Ask yourself: “Why would Dr. Maguire not include any of the following easily available and clearly important on-point references in his self-described “review” article?
Could it be because they don’t support his anti-competitor diatribe? That they countermand his basic premise? We think the answer is clear.
What do you think?
Eterno V et al. Adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ASCs) may favor breast cancer recurrence via HGF/c-Met signaling. Oncotarget. 2014 Feb;5(3):613.
Polusani SR et al. Adipokines deregulate cellular communication via epigenetic repression of gap junction loci in obese endometrial cancer. Cancer research. 2019 Jan 1;79(1):196-208.
Scioli MG et al. Adipose-Derived Stem Cells in Cancer Progression: New Perspectives and Opportunities. International journal of molecular sciences. 2019 Jan;20(13):3296.
Tang H et al. The metastatic phenotype shift toward myofibroblast of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells promotes ovarian cancer progression. Carcinogenesis. 2019 May 2.
Sabol RA et al. Obesity-Altered Adipose Stem Cells Promote ER+ Breast Cancer Metastasis through Estrogen Independent Pathways. International journal of molecular sciences. 2019 Jan;20(6):1419.
Reyes-Ramos AM et al. Mesenchymal Cells Support the Oncogenicity and Therapeutic Response of the Hedgehog Pathway in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. Cancers. 2019 Oct;11(10):1522.
O’Halloran N et al. Oncological Risk in Autologous Stem Cell Donation for Novel Tissue-Engineering Approaches to Postmastectomy Breast Regeneration. Breast cancer: basic and clinical research. 2019 Sep;13:1178223419864896.
Haiqian XU et al. Adipose derived stem cells promote tumor metastasis in breast Cancer cells by stem cell factor inhibition of miR20b. Cellular Signaling. 2019 Jun 27:109350.
Li M et al. Spontaneous formation of tumorigenic hybrids between human omental adipose-derived stromal cells and endometrial cancer cells increased motility and heterogeneity of cancer cells. Cell Cycle. 2019 Feb 1;18(3):320-32.
Lyes MA et al. Adipose stem cell crosstalk with chemo-residual breast cancer cells: implications for tumor recurrence. Breast cancer research and treatment. 2019 Apr 15;174(2):413-22.
Wang S et al. Exosomes secreted by mesenchymal stromal/stem cell-derived adipocytes promote breast cancer cell growth via activation of Hippo signaling pathway. Stem cell research & therapy. 2019 Dec;10(1):117.
Maj M et al. The effects of adipose‐derived stem cells on CD133‐expressing bladder cancer cells. Journal of cellular biochemistry. 2019 Jul;120(7):11562-72.
Goto H et al. Adipose-derived stem cells enhance human breast cancer growth and cancer stem cell-like properties through adipsin. Oncogene. 2019 Feb;38(6):767.
Chiu YJ et al. Adipose-derived stem cell conditioned medium attenuates cisplatin-triggered apoptosis in tongue squamous cell carcinoma. Oncology reports. 2018 Feb 1;39(2):651-8.
Teshima T et al. Soluble factors from adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells promote canine hepatocellular carcinoma cell proliferation and invasion. PloS one. 2018 Jan 18;13(1):e0191539.
Ciortea RĂ et al. Mesenchymal stem cells derived from adipose tissue and Ishikawa cells co-culture highlight the role of adiponectin in endometrial cancer pathogenesis. Romanian journal of morphology and embryology. 2018 Jan 1;59(4):1165-72.
Zhao Y et al. CXCL5 secreted from adipose tissue‑derived stem cells promotes cancer cell proliferation. Oncology letters. 2018 Feb 1;15(2):1403-10.
Crean-Tate KK, Reizes O. Leptin regulation of cancer stem cells in breast and gynecologic cancer. Endocrinology. 2018 Jun 27;159(8):3069-80.
Maj M, Kokocha A, Bajek A, Drewa T. The interplay between adipose-derived stem cells and bladder cancer cells. Scientific reports. 2018 Oct 11;8(1):15118.
Hariharan N et al. Adipose Tissue-Secreted Factors Alter Bladder Cancer Cell Migration. Journal of obesity. 2018;2018.
Reinkens T, Vogt PM, Bucan V. J Adipose-Derived Stem Cells (ASC) Communicate with Residual Breast Cancer Cells. Mol Genet Med. 2017;11(267):1747-0862.
Wang Y et al. Human adipose‐derived mesenchymal stem cell‐secreted CXCL1 and CXCL8 facilitate breast tumor growth by promoting angiogenesis. Stem Cells. 2017 Sep;35(9):2060-70.
Strong AL et al. Concise review: the obesity cancer paradigm: exploration of the interactions and crosstalk with adipose stem cells. Stem cells. 2015 Feb;33(2):318-26.
Strong AL et al. Leptin produced by obese adipose stromal/stem cells enhances proliferation and metastasis of estrogen receptor positive breast cancers. Breast Cancer Research. 2015 Dec;17(1):112.
Kato S et al. Leptin stimulates migration and invasion and maintains cancer stem-like properties in ovarian cancer cells: an explanation for poor outcomes in obese women. Oncotarget. 2015 Aug 28;6(25):21100.
Rowan BG et al. Human adipose tissue-derived stromal/stem cells promote migration and early metastasis of triple negative breast cancer xenografts. PloS one. 2014 Feb 28;9(2):e89595.
Lin R, Wang S, Zhao RC. Exosomes from human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells promote migration through Wnt signaling pathway in a breast cancer cell model. Molecular and cellular biochemistry. 2013 Nov 1;383(1-2):13-20.
Ciortea, R., et al. Mesenchymal stem cells derived from adipose tissue and Ishikawa cells co-culture highlight the role of adiponectin in endometrial cancer pathogenesis. Rom J Morphol Embryol (2018). 59(4): 1165-1172
Di Zazzo E et al. Adiponectin as Link Factor between Adipose Tissue and Cancer. International journal of molecular sciences. 2019 Jan;20(4):839.
Strong, A. L., et al. (2017). Obesity Enhances the Conversion of Adipose-Derived Stromal/Stem Cells into Carcinoma-Associated Fibroblast Leading to Cancer Cell Proliferation and Progression to an Invasive Phenotype. Stem Cells Int 2017: 9216502.
Strong, A. L., et al. (2015). Leptin produced by obese adipose stromal/stem cells enhances proliferation and metastasis of estrogen receptor positive breast cancers. Breast Cancer Res 17: 112.
Zhang, Y., et al. (2015). Stromal Cells Derived from Visceral and Obese Adipose Tissue Promote Growth of Ovarian Cancers. PLoS One 10(8): e0136361.
Wei HJ et al. Adipose-derived stem cells promote tumor initiation and accelerate tumor growth by interleukin-6 production. Oncotarget. 2015 Apr 10;6(10):7713.