Central Sierra
University of California
Central Sierra

Bad Blood

I spent some time over the holidays doing some reading, and one intriguing book I finished was the recently published "Bad Blood" by John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal.  If you aren't familiar with the story, it's the account of Theranos, the Silicon Valley start up that blew up in spectacular fashion when its blood testing machine supposedly testing for some 200 factors from a single drop of blood drawn from the patient's finger was found to be bogus.

Whatever drove them to do this, be it money, hubris or just a bad moral compass, it was actually pretty dangerous, since as a medical device generating inaccurate data on real people it was putting many unsuspecting people in harm's way.

What is striking about all of this is that the science already says that a finger stick system drawing a single drop of blood from a finger can't be accurate. A scientist from the UC San Francisco Department of Laboratory Medicine, quoted well into the book, shared with the author that since the capillary blood from the small vessels located in the fingertips is so polluted with fluids and cells it will render any sort of measurement unreliable.  He underlines this statement by saying of what Theranos was doing, "I'd be less surprised if they told us they were time travelers who came back from the twenty seventh century than if they told me they cracked that nut".

So pray tell me why we had a questionable medical technology being rolled out on live patients all the while the real scientists in academia knew it wasn't going to work in the first place?  That this basic information didn't reach the people who were involved in doing business with Theranos, from big money investors, to the retailers who were going to use this system in stores, to the unsuspecting customers serving as guinea pigs for the machine tells me something is not right here.

It's clear that academics have a lot of valuable information and comprehension of the world, both old and new, that should be shared.   Cooperative Extension does exactly that, and and believe me if there is a fraudulent technology being touted to the growers we work with, we are going to apply the cold unemotional eye of science to it, call it for what it is, and spare people the cost (and possible danger, apparently) of having to figure it all out on their own.  

When it comes to agriculture in California, charlatans, carpet-baggers, shysters and snake oil salesmen still need to take heed.




Posted on Sunday, December 30, 2018 at 5:13 PM

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