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N = 1, Fortuitous Effects, And AIDS Research

A recent article on xenotransplantation (R. Finn, The Scientist, Aug. 19, 1996, page 1) and two responses to my commentary (M. Jasienski, The Scientist, March 4, 1996, page 10), which was critical of a single-subject baboon bone-marrow transplant trial, prompt me to explicate some methodological issues further. What insights can a single-subject study provide? While, as pointed out by J.E. Janosky (The Scientist, May 27, 1996, page 12), there could be some room for N = 1 studies, J.G. Llaurado

Michal Jasienski

A recent article on xenotransplantation (R. Finn, The Scientist, Aug. 19, 1996, page 1) and two responses to my commentary (M. Jasienski, The Scientist, March 4, 1996, page 10), which was critical of a single-subject baboon bone-marrow transplant trial, prompt me to explicate some methodological issues further. What insights can a single-subject study provide? While, as pointed out by J.E. Janosky (The Scientist, May 27, 1996, page 12), there could be some room for N = 1 studies, J.G. Llaurado unintentionally strengthens my skepticism in this matter (The Scientist, July 8, 1996, page 12). Llaurado writes that the currents that Alessandro Volta used on himself to study electricity are "today believed sufficient to cause lethal arrhythmias on a less corpulent man than Volta." Is it then not quite fortunate for the development of science that Volta was overweight...

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