Leaky Brain, Leaky Gut: Are They Real?

First there was leaky gut; now there’s leaky brain. These questionable concepts are being promoted by practitioners of so-called “functional medicine.” First there was leaky gut  Three years ago Mark Crislip wrote about leaky gut syndrome for SBM. He said, “because of an almost complete lack of supporting basic science and few therapeutic clinical trials showing no effect,

Molecular Phylogenetics: A New Way to Tell the Story of Evolution

The new science of molecular phylogenetics tells the story of evolution with no need to consult the fossil record. It has produced some surprises, including a whole new domain of life, the archaea. Darwin’s 1859 book On the Origin of Species was a well-written, well-argued introduction to evolution, to the theory that populations evolve and species differentiate

Beware Stem Cell Clinics that Offer Untested Treatments

Stem cell treatments are all the rage. Since they’re mostly illegal in the US, patients have been going to other countries for treatment (stem cell tourism). The claims are grandiose, but the evidence to support those claims is thin gruel. What are stem cells? Embryonic stem cells are the cells in the early embryo that

Announcing: Video Lecture Course on Science-Based Medicine

A couple of years ago, the James Randi Educational Foundation commissioned me to develop a series of 10 video lectures on Science-Based Medicine. After a lot of work and many vicissitudes, it is now available. The lecture titles are: Science-Based Medicine vs. Evidence-Based Medicine What Is CAM? Chiropractic Acupuncture Homeopathy Naturopathy and Herbal Medicine Energy Medicine Miscellaneous

Rigor Mortis: What’s Wrong with Medical Science and How to Fix It

  I just finished reading Richard Harris’ excellent book, Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions. From the title, I was expecting an angry, biased polemic attacking science and scientists. I was very pleasantly surprised. He doesn’t condemn science. He points out problems with the way science is carried

Stem Cells for Macular Degeneration: Meticulous Science vs. Unethical Carelessness

Rigorous scientists stabilized a patient’s macular degeneration with a cutting-edge stem cell treatment; less rigorous scientists misapplied stem cell science and left three women blind. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of vision loss in people over 50. Thirty percent of us will develop it by age 75-85. There is no cure. For

Parkinson’s Disease: A Detective Story

I didn’t intend to review Jon Palfreman’s book Brain Storms: The Race to Unlock the Mysteries of Parkinson’s Disease, but after reading it I decided it was too good not to share. Palfreman is an award-winning science journalist who has Parkinson’s himself. He has done a bang-up job of describing Parkinson’s disease, its impact on patients,

The Gene: An Intimate History

Six years ago I reviewed Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. It was hands-down one of the best books I have ever read on a medical topic. Now he’s done it again. His new book is titled The Gene: An Intimate History. Mukherjee is a superb writer. Much of what I said

The Primo Vascular System: The N-rays of Acupuncture?

Is this a PVS structure or something else? Acupuncture meridians and acupoints are imaginary until proven otherwise. Anatomists have never been able to detect them by microscopy or autopsy, and they are not mentioned in anatomy textbooks. For decades, acupuncturists have been trying to prove that their pre-scientific belief system is grounded in scientific reality.

Sharks Get Cancer, Mole Rats Don’t: Clues to Understanding Cancer

We think of cancer as caused by mutations. Mutations are necessary, but not sufficient, to cause cancer. New research indicates that it’s the body’s response to mutant cells that determines whether cancer will develop. James S. Welsh, MD, a radiation oncologist and researcher, has written a book on the immunology of cancer, Sharks Get Cancer, Mole