Monday, August 30, 2010

Science: Assailants Attack China's Science Watchdog

Science magazine reports in its ScienceInsider:

China's self-appointed science fraud buster was assaulted yesterday afternoon in Beijing. Fang Shimin, better known by his pen name Fang Zhouzi, has used his Web site New Threads and his microblog to expose scientific misconduct, debunk crackpot medicine and pseudoscience claims, and catch cheaters who falsify resumes with fake degrees and nonexistent publications.

Fang has been slammed with libel suits contesting his often-acerbic exposes. But yesterday's attack--if it was linked to his antifraud crusade--takes things to a new level...

Among the many supportive comments left under the article on the web site is this one from Professor Zachary Burton, Fang Zhouzi's Ph. D. advisor:

Fang Shimin received his Ph. D. under my direction at Michigan State University. I am deeply troubled and saddened by this attack on Shimin. I wish him a rapid recovery from his injuries and a return to his work.

Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor also published a report titled "Attack on China whistleblower shows risk of unveiling corruption, fraud".

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fang Zhouzi Attacked near his Residence in Beijing

The shocking news first came in the form of an entry on a Chinese micro-blogging site: "I am the wife of Fang Zhouzi, I am publishing this for him. Just now, Fang Zhouzi was attacked by two hooligans with pepper spray and hammer near our home in Beijing. He suffered minor injuries." Fang Zhouzi's wife further appealed for police to launch a speedy investigation.

The twitter-like message immediately spread all over Chinese web site with thousands of netters relaying and rebroadcasting it. Many expressed shock and sympathy. At least one official radio media in China has picked up the story.

At 3pm of August 29, I met with two reporters from the Liaoning Satellite TV near my residence in Beijing and we went into a tea house nearby to do an interview. It was the same tea house which had been described in detail by the Chinese Entrepreneurs magazine [edit: during a previous interview]. The interview completed at around 5pm. I saw the two reporters off by a taxi. Just as I turned around and walked a couple of steps, a man suddenly came to my face and sprayed some misty material. It had acute smell, I felt dizzy and weakness in my legs and almost fainted. I immediately held my breath and ran across street. Another man came chasing me from behind with a hammer aimed at my head. I ran as fast I could, the man could not chase up to me. He then threw the hammer at me twice. The first time he was aiming at my head, it missed. I heard the sound of hammer falling into the ground and looked back. He picked up the hammer and threw it at me again. This time it hit on my waist area and blood came out there. I ran a couple of hundred meters and the guy stopped chasing. I called for emergency as soon as I reached our subdivision. Police came very fast and went about to look for eye witnesses. After interviewing with police, I went to a hospital nearby for an exam. Except for a couple of scratches near my waist, my body appeared to be fine.

I first thought the misty substance used by the hooligan was pepper spray. But after discussing with medical expert, new I think it is a kind of anesthesia with ether in it. I had used ether in labs before and it smelled similar. Their plan was to have one guy make me faint and another murder me with the hammer. Maybe they had learned the lesson from a previous failed attack to reporter Fang Xuanchang. It was fortunate that I reacted quickly, ran fast, and got away.

I have no personal enemies. This is obviously an attempt of someone who was exposed by me seeking revenge. They had scouted the area near my residence and waited for long and finally got this opportunity to attack. I could not speculate who was behind this. I have given the police all the hints I am aware of. This case is now being handled by the Shijingshang police station. The head of the station has called several times and appear to be diligent on the case. I hope they could find the attacker soon, as well as those who attacked Fang Xuanchang.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Beaumont Hospital's Result of Xiao Procedure Questioned in Journal of Urology

The Beaumont Hospital in Michigan is one of the first American institutes that took up clinical trials of the controversial Xiao Procedure. We have previously reported on their misleading propaganda. More recently, the hospital has also become the first institute to publish clinical results of Xiao Procedure in an established scientific journal. Dr. Ken Peters and his coauthors wrote in Journal of Urology of their results:
At 1 year 7 patients (78%) had a reproducible increase in bladder pressure with stimulation of the dermatome. Two patients were able to stop catheterization and all safely stopped antimuscarinics. No patient achieved complete urinary continence. The majority of subjects reported improved bowel function. One patient was continent of stool at baseline and 4 were continent at 1 year. Of the patients 89% had variable weakness of lower extremity muscle group at 1 month. One child had persistent foot drop and the remainder returned to baseline by 12 months.
In their conclusion, they noted that "more patients and longer followup are needed to assess the risk/benefit ratio of this novel procedure."

The Journal, however, appears to be less than impressed. It published two pieces of editorial comments to accompany the paper, both are quite negative. In one, Dr. Eric Kurzrock of UC Davis Children's Hospital wrote:

The authors present the first North American experience with lumbar to sacral nerve rerouting for patients with spina bifida. The results from this study and previous animal and clinical studies by Xiao clearly demonstrate that nerve rerouting produces a somatic-autonomic or cutaneous/bladder reflex with stimulation of the lower extremity dermatome. What is also clear is that the clinical benefit of the procedure is not at all similar to previous reports.

Although the authors did an excellent job of following the patients and characterizing their changes, the results are hard to validate without a control population going through the same rigorous surveillance regimen. In particular the improved bowel continence and minimal changes in bladder compliance may not be statistically significant. The fact that most patients were still on clean intermittent catheterization and none achieved complete urinary continence is troubling in light of the report of 87% success with 110 children with spina bifida presented by Xiao. One has to wonder if most of these children are not voiding volitionally or using the newly developed cutaneous reflex, and how much reinnervation has a role in this surgery. Is it possible that unilateral denervation of the S3 ventral motor nerve produced improved compliance and continence, as previously reported in numerous clinical series?

I congratulate the authors for taking on this challenge. I hope this study leads to a rebirth or refocus regarding neurosurgical treatments of neuropathic bowel and bladder. I strongly agree with the authors that this procedure should remain on a research protocol only.

One of the most curious findings is the discrepancy between urodynamic data and subjective voiding. One patient exhibited a decrease in capacity and an absence of reflex arc, and yet he subjectively reported improved bladder and bowel function! I could not help but speculate that his voiding after the procedure could simply be the bladder emptying via intra-abdominal pressure generation against an open bladder neck, given his preoperative stress incontinence. Xiao reported that more than 87% of 110 patients gained sensation and continence within 1 year (reference 7 in article). In comparison, the current patients undergoing the identical procedure with the help of Xiao himself only showed a modest improvement in objective urodynamic studies and subjective reporting. Unless the innovators provide a sound argument and data for the validity of the procedure, there is a great danger of its improper and rapid adaptation by patients and the medical community at large.