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Tags basophils , homeopathy , Madeleine Ennis

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Old 29th June 2010, 04:44 PM   #1
Pipirr
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Homeopathy and basophils: Madeleine Ennis explains

Remember Madeleine Ennis, star of the Horizon episode on the Memory of Water (titled Homeopathy: The Test)? Horizon failed to win the million dollars, and the basophil activation study was a bust. She kind of disappeared after that, although has stayed on the editorial board of the journal Homeopathy.

If you wondered what she thinks about homeopathy and the basophil story now, well, there's an update from her in Homeopathy ((2010) 99, 51–56). And here's a pdf.

Quote:
Basophil models of homeopathy: a sceptical view
M. Ennis

This paper examines the activation and inhibition of activation of human basophils. After a brief description of human basophils, different methods to determine basophil activation are discussed with a special emphasis on the use of flow cytometric methods, as these circumvent the potential problems of assays based on the loss of colour by activated basophils. The activation of human basophils by ultra-high dilutions of anti-IgE is discussed. The majority of the paper describes the inhibition of basophil activation by ultra-high dilutions of histamine. The results from published papers are described and discussed.

After over 20 years research trying to find out if high dilutions of histamine have a negative feedback effect on the activation of basophils by anti-IgE, what do we know? The methods are poorly standardized between laboratories – although the same is true for conventional studies. Certainly there appears to be some evidence for an effect – albeit small in some cases – with the high dilutions in several different laboratories using the flow cytometric methodologies. After standardization of a number of parameters, it is recommended that a multi-centre trial be performed to hopefully put an end to this ‘‘never-ending story’’.
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Old 29th June 2010, 05:08 PM   #2
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Interesting...
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Old 30th June 2010, 12:59 AM   #3
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Quote:
it is recommended that a multi-centre trial be performed

Hang on, didn't they already do one of those?
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Old 30th June 2010, 01:09 PM   #4
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I've often wondered where Madeleine is coming from on this. She apparently met one of Benveniste's group at a conference and he urged her to try the experiment. She did, and to her surprise (she says) she got a result. She says she's not a proponent of homoeopathy, and that seems to be true in a sense that she doesn't promote it as a treatment, but she doesn't mind going to homoeopathy conferences, publishing in homoeopathic fanzines and generally hanging out with them. Her more recent publications have seen her collaborating with people from Boiron.

In the Horizon programme, she sits there with a smile like a very plump Mona Lisa, disclaiming any theories about what's going on, and simply repeating that these were the results she was getting, deal with it.

In fact the Horizon programme duplicated her experiment, not Benveniste's. She seemed content enough with the protocol at the time, but afterwards there was an email circulating, ostensibly from her, criticising the protocol for being deliberately "sabotaged" by the sceptics so that it wouldn't work. This was being passed around the homoeopathy proponent forums.

A physicist explained the Fleischmann-Pons experiment to me as them having set up a very unstable system where there was a lot of noise and variability in the outcomes. Then all you have to do is cherry-pick the results you accept, finding some reason to reject the ones you don't want as being invalid. It doesn't need to be conscious, even. I think that's what's going on here. But you do need a degree of desire for a certain result to get the outcomes she's getting.

I don't think there's an effect here - if there was, someone would have nailed it by now. And that's ignoring the absence of any plausibility. I just wonder what's in it for Madeleine. I note she doesn't include any of these publications in her online university CV page. Is it just mischief-making? Does she suspect there's something going on, and want to be in on it if any discovery transpires? Or is she a closet homoeopath?

It's all very weird.

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Old 30th June 2010, 02:05 PM   #5
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She's still listed on the editorial board of Homeopathy, which I take to indicate an interest in the subject as a whole, rather than just a specific interest in ultradilute histamine and basophils.

The big surprise to me is that her involvement or interest in ultradilute histamine studies predates even Benveniste, as she writes: "I first heard about this work at the 1984 meeting of the European Histamine Research Society where Sainte-Laudy bravely presented his data to a crowd of extremely sceptical and rather hostile scientists and clinicians. Certainly, I together with others was carefully performing my calculations and realized that there were no molecules of histamine in the solutions for which he was claiming activity."

That was four years before Benveniste's Nature paper. So this histamine research had been around for a while before it was (so the story goes) accidentally discovered in Benveniste's lab, the poor fellow.

Now we are at 26 years of this nonsense and Ennis says we need still more studies. I suppose if they do enough of them, one or two may turn out positive.
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Old 30th June 2010, 02:16 PM   #6
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I hadn't noticed that extra detail. Wasn't Sainte-Laudy one of Benveniste's group? I just assumed it was the Benveniste lab she'd met at that conference, but I didn't realise it was quite so long ago. How long did they work on the basophils before the notorious publication anyway?

Benveniste claimed to have begun his basophil experiments after one of his lab staff persuaded him to try it. I'm not sure just how long ago that was.

It's odd that Madeleine has been playing this game for quite so long, but to have kept such a low profile in her mainstream academic work. It's an odd hobby, and I wonder how she justifies spending research time on it if she's not even going to add the papers to her CV.

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Old 1st July 2010, 06:01 AM   #7
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There's quite a puzzle here. The way Benveniste tells the story, a technician in his lab got anomalous results from a sample that had been diluted too far, called Benveniste over to check, then they researched it for a few years and finally published their great new discovery in Nature.

Yet Sainte-Laudy (who was a co-author on Benveniste's 1988 Nature paper, and listed at the same address as Benveniste) had presented similar results at a conference in 1984. Did Sainte-Laudy go to work in Benveniste's lab, and bring the ultra-dilute anti-IgE problem with him? Was he working in Benveniste's lab as far back as 1984? If so, that's a far different story to that of a serendipitous discovery by a lab technician.

This accidental discovery back story sounds more and more unlikely when one also remembers Nature saying: "Among other things, we were dismayed to learn that the salaries of two of Dr Benveniste's coauthors of the published article are paid for under a contract between INSERM 200 and the French company Boiron et Cie., a supplier of pharmaceuticals and homoeopathic medicines, as were our hotel bills."

So just how much involvement did Boiron have in anti-IgE research? Were they involved with Sainte-Laudy at least four years previously, and what about the one or two other researchers they financially supported in Benveniste's lab?
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Old 1st July 2010, 08:59 AM   #8
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I don't believe the back-story, partly because it changes depending which time he tells it. One version is that someone accidentally diluted something too far. Excuse me, the homoeopaths keep telling us how exact the potentisation process has to be, otherwise it won't work. But you can just do it by accident when taking a serology titre too far? The other problem with that is honestly, how can you "accidentally" produce a 30C preparation?

I'd also find it strange if someone noticing an effect like that immediately connected it to homoeopathy and paired up with homoeopaths to study it further. Which Ennis has also done, as it happens. A non-woo scientist spotting something like that would be more likely to pursue it independently, especially if he or she wanted to retain credibility in the field.

The other version of this story was that one of Benveniste's technicians or colleagues was himself a keen proponent of homoeopathy, and suggested to Benveniste that they try the basophil assay on a homoeopathic solution. That sounds more plausible, but it still doesn't explain the entirety of what happened.

My impression is that Benveniste was funded by Boiron all along, and this was a deliberate attempt to find an in vitro demonstration to "prove" that remedies are more than just the solvent. The beauty of this is that if the experiment is successful, you can trumpet it to the media and get all sorts of positive publicity, but if nothing is found then this outcome has no negative implications for homoeopathy. Homoeopathic theory, such as it is, does not depend on any assertion that ultra-dilute IgE can degranulate basophils. Thus, the finding that it doesn't is not a blow for them.

I think they far prefer to fund this sort of nonsense than to fund proper trials to see whether proving effeccts actually exist, or whether there is a statistically significant therapeutic effect. That's because homoeopathic theory depends absolutely on the assertions that proving effects are real and therapeutic effects are real. Too many well-designed trials failing to find any therapeutic or proving effect are potentially highly damaging. Letting Jacques and Madeleine and their little friends play about with blood cells and histamine and so on is on the other hand an enterprise with no downside. They might publish papers claiming there's an effect, if so good. They're unlikely to publish papers saying there was no effect, but even if they do, who cares?

Rolfe.
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Last edited by Rolfe; 1st July 2010 at 09:01 AM.
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Old 20th September 2013, 06:06 PM   #9
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Lightbulb I think the experiment for $1 million was analyzed improperly

The problem I have with the analysis is that the placebo showed histamine response. If water has no memory what's the explanation for the placebo water to show any histamine at all? That can mean that the placebo water actually had memory at one time of a histamine too. Remember at that dilution it is like a drop in the ocean so almost any water can have memory and you can't know it by testing the molecular status of the water.

What I propose is to test all placebo water first but I don't know if you can filter the contrast basophil dye out after. But thats the only way to know. Unless you consider that the placebo water does have memory too.
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Old 20th September 2013, 07:03 PM   #10
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For that to work, water would have to have *selective* memory. Do go on....
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Old 22nd September 2013, 04:19 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Innovator101 View Post
The problem I have with the analysis is that the placebo showed histamine response.

If you run an experiment in which you see similar results for a control group as for the "active" group, what conclusion can you draw from this about the effect you were trying to measure?
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Old 24th September 2013, 08:39 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
If you run an experiment in which you see similar results for a control group as for the "active" group, what conclusion can you draw from this about the effect you were trying to measure?
That the difference between the control and active groups was not a factor in the response.
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