Macchiarini, Birchall, Seifalian and EU-funded human experimenting

Macchiarini, Birchall, Seifalian and EU-funded human experimenting

The disgraced surgeon Paolo Macchiarini has now been officially sacked from Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Sweden, while also the entire Ethics Council was dismissed by the new KI Vice Chancellor in the process of creating a new supervisory body, with more extended authority.

European Union terminated in 2014 its FP7 funding to Macchiarini and his partners of the Biotrachea Consortium (yet as I show below, the EU’s follow-up programme Horizon2020 has awarded just now almost €7 Mio for a stage II clinical trial with regenerated trachea by the very same Macchiarini partners at UCL) . The original wording of the EU spokesperson in regard to BIotrachea termination referred to “difficulties related to important deliverables” and declared that “at no time did any EU funding for this project involve activities, tests or investigations with human subjects”. Yet the List of Milestones of Biotrachea contained points like:

  • MS10 Report on the in vivo immune responses to tissue-engineered airway grafts in men.
  • WT14: Outcome of first trial in man tracheal clinical trial
  • WT15: Obtaining of clinical trials authorization for tracheal trial
  • WT 16: Obtaining of clinical trials authorization for synthetic tracheal trial

After I confronted EU with this and other documents from Biotrachea suggesting an upcoming clinical trial on human patients, the EU spokesperson issued an update to their earlier statement (the entire EU message at the end):

“A chronological sequence of milestones (MS) and work packages (WP) were proposed under the Description of Action. These defined and described all of the technical activities that were to be carried out. The Commission terminated the project before the milestones and work packages referred to in your message were achieved or delivered”.

Continue reading “Macchiarini, Birchall, Seifalian and EU-funded human experimenting”

ERC on Susana González’ suspended €2Mio grant: peer reviewers to spot manipulations

Spain is rocked by two misconduct scandals involving biomedical researchers Sonia Melo and Susana González. The latter has been sacked from her job as group leader at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC), after an internal investigation revealed serious “irregularities”, as El País reported. First concerns about data integrity in Gonzalez’ papers were posted on PubPeer and PubMed Commons as early as 2013, followed by further discoveries of suspicious image duplications like these:



Continue reading “ERC on Susana González’ suspended €2Mio grant: peer reviewers to spot manipulations”

Macchiarini’s German (ex-)friends: Jungebluth and Bader

Macchiarini’s German (ex-)friends: Jungebluth and Bader

The trachea-transplant “super- surgeon” Paolo Macchiarini seems to be sitting out the Swedish investigations of his misconduct and patients’ deaths in Russia. He is apparently still employed at the International Research, Clinical and Education Center of Regenerative Medicine in Krasnodar, a city in south-western Russia, just across the recently occupied Ukrainian Crimea peninsula.  While Macchiarini’s Krasnodar colleague Elena Gubareva eagerly boasted to a Russian newspaper journalist about their success in creating stem-cell derived artificial diaphragm and plans to grow an artificial heart, the foreign star scientist hid in his office until the journalist left.

In the following article I will give an update on Macchiarini’s colleagues in Russia and primarily focus on  two German doctors and close associates of the Italian surgeon (who, having grown up in Switzerland, speaks perfect German). Macchiarini met both these friends of his at the Medical University Hannover (MHH), where he joined in 2004 and had been developing the artificial trachea with the funding from the DFG.  His collaborator at MHH was the surgeon Augustinus Bader, now stem cell professor at the University of Leipzig. Philipp Jungebluth was Macchiarini’s award-winning medicine graduate at MHH. The young German doctor followed his idol to Barcelona, Sweden and Russia and directly participated in all Macchiarini’s disastrous trachea transplantations. Continue reading “Macchiarini’s German (ex-)friends: Jungebluth and Bader”

Big Boys only for Big Dream of Gold OA in Germany

Big Boys only for Big Dream of Gold OA in Germany

Germany is set to transform its academic publishing to Open Access (OA). Gold OA model, where the articles are published in author-pays OA journals, is the obvious favourite, as recently recommended by several major universities and key German research institutions, the Max-Planck and the Helmholtz Societies. But also Green OA is welcome, where papers become openly accessible after an additional payment to the subscription publisher (hybrid model), or are uploaded to institutional depositories after this publisher’s embargo expires. The OA transformation is certainly a very laudable idea, however, a suspicion creeps in, there is possibly little strategy beyond the goal of flipping to OA. The closed-access Berlin12 conference on OA transformation, which took place in December 2015, did not seem to make cost reduction at publishing and subscriptions a priority, and neither changing the way science is published. Research irreproducibility, widespread manipulations and missing data, presently widely ignored or even cynically dismissed by journal editors, are probably expected to go away by themselves once the very same journals go full Open Access.

Yet some scientists are keen to flip not only the subscription model to OA, but also the way science is published, towards transparency and data sharing. The traditional publishing model (whether subscription or OA), where a submitted manuscript disappears into a black hole of obscure editorial dealings, intransparent peer review and hidden conflicts of interests, only to emerge months or years later, with its experimental protocols muddy at best and its research data forever inaccessible- this should become a thing of the past. New models emerge, where the peer review becomes progressively transparent and the research becomes immediately available, for example as pre-prints. Continue reading “Big Boys only for Big Dream of Gold OA in Germany”

Sumitran-Holgersson: misconduct and regenerative travesty in Sweden

Sumitran-Holgersson: misconduct and regenerative travesty in Sweden

The Paolo Macchiarini scandal draws wider circles, and unfortunately, it involves more unnecessary patient deaths though questionable tracheal transplants, this time at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

In 2011, scientists at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital of Gothenburg applied a method of bioreactor-engineered trachea (similar to that by Macchiarini)  to operate on a 76-year old patient, possibly without a medical necessity (he had asthma since decades). The patient died 23 days later “due to cardiac arrest but with a patent, open, and stable tracheal transplant and intact anastomoses”. This is what the paper (Berg et al, Tissue Eng Part A. 2014) claims, which last author is Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson, professor of transplantation biology at the Sahlgrenska Academy. The University of Gothenburg described Sumitran-Holgersson as “genius”, in an article presenting her rather unconventional method of purifying endothelial stem cells from patients’ blood. That work she did in collaboration with another Sahlgrenska professor and medical director of the Transplant Center, Michael Olausson.


Guest cartoon: Jill Howlin

Continue reading “Sumitran-Holgersson: misconduct and regenerative travesty in Sweden”

Publisher Springer to retract Sauren Das paper seven months after editorial decision

In July 2015 I was contacted by a concerned reader, asking me to place on PubPeer on his behalf a concern about a suspicious gel image in a 2009 paper by the plant scientist Sauren Das from the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta. The person who contacted me claimed that his attempt to place his comment did not pass moderation by PubPeer. As I had a registered PubPeer account, I succeeded. This excessively spliced gel was what I flagged:


I was harshly criticized by an anonymous commenter, who decreed: “ I’m not sure why you think you are in a position to lecture anyone”.

Continue reading “Publisher Springer to retract Sauren Das paper seven months after editorial decision”

Hand of God paper retracted: PLOS ONE “could not stand by the pre-publication assessment”

A paper with reference to “The Creator” in PLOS One, titled “Biomechanical characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living“, has been retracted after numerous readers’ complaints. A sentence in the abstract went:

“The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by the Creator to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way”.

It was followed by two further mentions of The Creator. In the comment section, the author Ming-Jin Liu claimed not to have meant any God, but evolution:

“We are sorry for drawing the debates about creationism. Our study has no relationship with creationism. English is not our native language. Our understanding of the word Creator was not actually as a native English speaker expected. Now we realized that we had misunderstood the word Creator. What we would like to express is that the biomechanical characteristic of tendious connective architecture between muscles and articulations is a proper design by the NATURE (result of evolution) to perform a multitude of daily grasping tasks”.

Continue reading “Hand of God paper retracted: PLOS ONE “could not stand by the pre-publication assessment””