Sunday, January 23, 2005

She blinded me... with science!

Excerpt from recent email from a friend:

... we were on the way back into the big mall complex proper [at the Flatiron Mall in Denver, CO], passing by various stores in the outdoor section. We were passing by a spa that I had barely registered in my brain on the way to lunch--they had a dry erase board with a listing of their services, such as Botox and facial waxes. I forgot about it as soon as I passed it.

Well, *this* time, ____ pointed out an item midway down the board, which said, "DNA STEM CELLS".

I stared at it, racking my brain for any recollection of salon stem cell use, but came up dry. So I walked in, and asked the three women of various ages, in lab coats, for more information. The older of the trio, a middle-aged woman with wavy blonde hair, said, "You have stem cells in your skin, and as you age, those stem cells don't work as well. We replenish your stem cells using bovine stem cells from amniotic fluid to rejuvenate the skin."

"... Bovine?"

"Yes, because they are the most similar, molecularly, to our own."

"Ah. .... and, um, how do you, uh, apply, these stem cells?"

"We massage them into the skin." (Demonstrating, waving her fingers in circles around her face without quite touching the skin.)

"... So, you're saying that you ... replenish ... the stem cells ... by topical application?"


" ... I see. ... Yes. ... Thank you, have a nice day."

I left the spa and joined ____ outside, and walked a bit before practically collapsing with laughter and trying to keep myself from having an aneurysm. It would have been fun to delve deeper, just to see (such as: how do you keep these stem cells? Exactly how do the stem cells cross the epithelial barrier? What molecules, really, are you talking about?), but I had stuff to do.

My friend, who is a developmental biologist, subsequently sent me a link to Clinique Reneux's "CryoStem Skin Therapy™" FAQ, which contains much hilarity.

UPDATE: On further Googling, it appears that this scam is perpetrated by "The DNA Health Institute" (warning: odious Flash page), a company led by erstwhile homeopathic charlatan Noel Aguilar, "Ph.D.". "Dr." Aguilar has evidently gotten tired of giving talks at Rotary Clubs and writing "forwards" [sic.] for books on "magnetic healing". I would be very interested to know where Noel Aguilar got his Ph.D., and in what field, and what his thesis was. If he actually is a Ph.D., that means his doctoral thesis is on file in some university library somewhere, and you should be able to order a copy. I suspect it would be "interesting" reading --- in sociology, or English, or some other field completely unrelated to cellular biology.

Note, also, that the CryoStem literature suggests the treatment has received FDA approval. However, a search through the FDA's catalog of approved drugs for "cryostem", "cry", and "stem" reveal no hits --- even though the claims made for CryoStem definitely meet the (B) clause of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, section 201(g)(1)'s standard for drugs: "articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals". If promoters of this drug are not simply lying outright, but merely stretching the truth, then the most they could have done is submit reports indicating that CryoStem meets the minimal safety requirements for cosmetics, with no evaluation of efficacy. (Drugs must be both safe and effective; cosmetics need only be safe, or carry a warning label).

Incidentally, this all serves as further evidence for my working hypothesis that only charlatans or the incredibly insecure actually write "Ph.D." after their name, or call themselves "Dr." (unless they are licensed, practicing medical doctors). Go to any top ten university department in any field, and you'll find few people who do either, except as a joke, or when they need to impress somebody especially thickheaded (e.g., Congress).

UPDATE': In comments, Inky notes:

I looked at the Rotary Club link. It says that:

Today there is a Hahnemann Medical College of Homeopathy. Dr. Aguilar attended, and earned a degree there.


Also: apparently the majority of homeopathic .. erm, instituions, are either named after Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathic quarkery. Otherwise, they conveniently put in "Homeopathy", like the Canadian Academy of Homeopathy.

Thus, there is not just *one* Hahnemann Medical College of Homeopathy. Locations gleaned from the first page of Google searches include: Pennsylvania, Heikunst, New Delhi, and Bhopal. I suppose Dr. Aguilar went to PA.

Also, a correspondent helpfully writes, via email:

According to _Dissertation Abstracts_, nobody named Noel Aguilar has received a Ph.D. from an accredited North American institution --- and their records go back to some point in the 1800s. In fact there are only 140 Aguilars in their data base, which includes some European schools (I don't know since when but at least since the 1990s), and none of them have names which could plausibly be versions of Noel Aguilar, e.g., "N. Aguilar". So there are three possibilities: (1) He got his degree abroad. (2) He got his degree from a non-accredited institution. (3) He just made it up.

Therefore, I conclude that "Dr." Aguilar most likely got his "degree" from a non-accredited school specializing in homeopathy.


  1. Dear to who it may concern,

    First of all, let me comment on the absolutely fantastic results generated from the use of the DNA Cryo Cell Therapy treatments.
    I have been a Para-Medical Aethetician/Medical Assist. for the last 30 years working with Derms and Cosmetic Surgeons. I first came in contact with the Frozen cell therapy 20 years ago. I am personally acquainted with Dr. Noel Aguilar. He is very brilliant and on the cutting edge of technology. However, he is not the originator of the first known product. Two other physician scientists invented the technology, and either lost the patent after 20 years, or died without further development and marketing. Dr. Aguilar continued the expensive and expansive research (over 5 years at least) to get the product to the next level. I have seen great results on extreme acne skin healing as well as skin problem reversal. Next, the product is "not" a drug, so it is not listed with FDA drug listing. It is more of a neutroceutical, or cosmeceutical item. Until you further research your evaluations and experience treatments yourself, you don't know what you are talking about. Sincerely N.L.Jones

  2. Ah, bite me. On the one hand I have my developmental biologist friend and PZ Meyers, both of whom find the claims of the CryoStem literature absurd. On the other hand I have some faceless commenter on the Internet. Who am I going to believe?

    In fact, in all likelihood you're Mr. Aguilar shilling under a sock puppet (I will not call you "Dr.", as nobody by that name has obtained a doctoral degree from an accredited institution in the United States), or perhaps one of the therapy's other snake oil salesmen.

  3. I am not sure you even deserve a comment but here goes. I have treated my clients with the DNA Cryo Stem Cells for several years now. The results are amazing. My clients have been asked if they have had facelifts. My clients with acne scars have perfect skin now. You should look up live cell therapy. It works in the same way, cellular communication. You would be hard pressed to find a regular MD in this country that believes in Live Cell Therapy, but it saves lives. You are just ignorant, so I forgive you.

  4. Do I "deserve" a comment? That's rich. O whatever shall I do when anonymous people on the Internet withhold their comments from my blog?

    In any case, since you have deigned to post, I shall honor you with a reply, which will be nothing less than pointing out the obvious. Until such a time as you substantiate your claim by (1) explaining what "cellular communication" you mean, (2) citing a peer-reviewed double-blind study, and (3) giving us the contact information for your clinical practice, then anybody who reads this post would be well-advised to rate your credibility at exactly zero.

    Or less than zero. Most likely you are another shill trying to spread disinformation because this blog post is now one of the top Google hits for "DNA CryoStem".

  5. Since you are so passionate about this issue...I suggest you call DNA Health Institute and get some clinical information. It seems to me that a layman wouldn't really care about any of this. Perhaps you are the shill, spreading disinformation, because you have not researched or experienced any of it. You spoke of the kind of medical background that Dr. Agular you even know anything about Naturopathic Medicine? I have a feeling that you have no clue about alternative medicine. This kind of skin treatment is the future. The ionic formula of DNA'S skin products are of the purest ingredients around. What you put on your skin goes into your bloodstream. People rubbbing toxic skin creams all over their bodies can cause health problems. Many key ingredients in lotions have been linked to cancer, aluminum in deodorants, etc... Also DNA is preservative free, one of the only preservative free skin care lines in the country. How can you be so against a company that finally has consciouness to what is going on? I ask that before you say another negative word about it, you properly research it, perhaps even try it.

  6. You don't seem to know what a shill is. I suggest you consult a dictionary.

    I've read enough of Orac's blog to konw that Naturopathic "Medicine" is in all likelihood a load of bull, like virtually all alternative "medicine". I also know that its practitioners are fond of inventing vaguely scientific-sounding nonsense like "ionic formula" and "cellular communication" to hoodwink the clueless. Do you even know what an "ion" is, and why talking about the special properties of an "ionic formula" makes you sound like a moron?

    I'm not going to waste my time calling the DNA Health Institute, for the same reason I don't need to call the Psychic Friends Network in order to determine that they're probably bogus. If the "DNA Health Institute" were legit, the clinical trial information would be published somewhere.

    Lastly I've wasted enough time dealing with the nonsense from alties. Comments on this thread are closed. Go post on your own blog, kiddies.