Yuletide greetings from Jungebluth’s lawyer

Yuletide greetings from Jungebluth’s lawyer

On December 22nd, I received some Christmas mail. It was a letter from a famous media lawyer, Prof. Dr. Jan Hegemann, recruited by Philipp Jungebluth to deal with my unwelcome reporting. This is the third time a German clinician set lawyers upon me (here and here are the previous two), and the second time it is about  trachea transplants. This lawyer, whose offices are at Potsdamer Platz at the business heart of Berlin and who represented the biggest stars of German media landscape, is certainly not cheap.

Jungebluth was the closest assistant of the scandal surgeon of Paolo Macchiarini, many of their trachea transplant patients have died. Through his lawyer, Jungebluth (who is an unfinished surgeon) denied any responsibility for any of these operations, insisting against a huge mountain of evidence that he was solely contributing academically, as a scientist. The lawyer also insists that Jungebluth’s medical dissertation, completed under Macchiarini’s supervision at the Medical University Hannover (MHH) in Germany, was equivalent to a PhD degree and that his employer Karolinska Institutet (KI) officially recognized this (for some reason, same lawyer apparently deems my own PhD degree as null and void). Interestingly, the lawyer did not deny my earlier report that his client’s dissertation is being investigated by the MHH right now, which may result in the revocation of Jungebluth’s medical doctorate and of all its alleged equivalences.

The lawyer’s main assertion is that his client quit his job at the University Clinic Heidelberg utterly voluntarily, thus abandoning all his research and training as thorax surgeon, to become a junior doctor at some provincial communal hospital near Hannover. Yet the loss of his job in research was what Jungebluth actually profusely lamented just now in an interview with Swedish newspaper.

Continue reading “Yuletide greetings from Jungebluth’s lawyer”

Birchall’s trachea transplant trial at UCL suspended by health authorities

Birchall’s trachea transplant trial at UCL suspended by health authorities

The British laryngologist and UCL professor Martin Birchall is in trouble now, despite all his constant attempts to turn claims into facts and declare the “stem cell”-based cadaveric trachea transplant technology (which he initially developed together with Paolo Macchiarini) a full success. Birchall’s own little trachea transplant trial INSPIRE (see background here), where the method was about to be applied once again, and on four patients outside of any life-threatening conditions, has been now suspended indefinitely by the NHS Health Research Authority and its South Central – Oxford A Research Ethics Committee (REC), as I report exclusively below. Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is investigating Birchall’s employer UCL Hospital for providing me with inappropriate and misleading information about that trial under Freedom of Information Act (see email here). Also, the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) is investigating a suspected loss of laboratory documentation at the veterinary department of Bristol University, where their former professor, his Bristol colleagues and Macchiarini’s student Philipp Jungebluth generated in 2008 a trachea transplant for Macchiarini’s patient Claudia Castillo in Barcelona (for background, see my report here). Continue reading “Birchall’s trachea transplant trial at UCL suspended by health authorities”

Macchiarini, Jungebluth guilty of research fraud, KI demands retraction of Nature Communications paper

Macchiarini, Jungebluth guilty of research fraud, KI demands retraction of Nature Communications paper

The scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, now professor at Federal University of Kazan in Russia, is preparing to experiment on monkeys using plastic oesophagus. He proclaims previous success in rats, yet today’s decision of his former employer, the Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm declared that very paper as fraudulent and found Macchiarini and his acolyte Philipp Jungebluth guilty of research misconduct. An earlier decision of the Swedish Central Ethical Review Board (CEPN, read decision here) came on September 6th 2016 to a similar conclusion, with one minor difference. Back then, all senior authors were found “guilty of scientific misconduct”, thus also including Macchiarini’s American collaborator Doris Taylor (who in 2014 almost made him a professor at her University of Texas). Now, all authors except of Macchiarini and Jungebluth have been virtually absolved, while the junior co-authors, the graduate student Sebastian Sjöqvist and the assistant professor Mei Ling Lim received an admonition.

KI now demands the retraction of this 2014 Nature Communications paper:

Sebastian Sjöqvist, Philipp Jungebluth, Mei Ling Lim, Johannes C. Haag, Ylva Gustafsson, Greg Lemon, Silvia Baiguera, Miguel Angel Burguillos, Costantino Del Gaudio, Antonio Beltrán Rodríguez, Alexander Sotnichenko, Karolina Kublickiene, Henrik Ullman, Heike Kielstein, Peter Damberg, Alessandra Bianco, Rainer Heuchel, Ying Zhao, Domenico Ribatti, Cristián Ibarra, Bertrand Joseph, Doris A. Taylor & Paolo Macchiarini

Experimental orthotopic transplantation of a tissue-engineered oesophagus in rats Continue reading “Macchiarini, Jungebluth guilty of research fraud, KI demands retraction of Nature Communications paper”

Karolinska in denial, by Johan Thyberg

Karolinska in denial, by Johan Thyberg

This is a guest post by Johan Thyberg, a 1947-born Swedish biologist and a well-known activist against science fraud. His 2009 published book “Scientific Fraud or Legal Scandal?” meticulously narrates several fraud scandals in Swedish science, one of which I referred to when introducing a guest post of another concerned Swedish academic. Until his academic retirement, Thyberg used to be professor for cell and molecular biology at Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm, the showplace of probably the biggest medicine scandal of recent times, that of the trachea transplant surgeon Paolo Macchiarini. Continue reading “Karolinska in denial, by Johan Thyberg”

Chocolate health: advice by Thomas Lüscher and peer review by Jonas Malmstedt

Chocolate health: advice by Thomas Lüscher and peer review by Jonas Malmstedt

Christmas season is the time to eat lots of chocolate. And as science teaches us, your confectionery is actually the superfood which will make you healthy, slim and clever. Good for you, good for the chocolate industry which often generously sponsors such scientists.

In May 2016, I brought a story about chocolate health research and how it is funded by food industry giants Mars and Nestle. The main protagonist was Thomas Lüscher, cardiology professor at the University of Zürich and head of the heart centre at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland. Lüscher postulated that eating dark chocolate daily is beneficial for heart insufficiency patients and may prevent heart attacks, he now offers some additional advice. Now his peer, the Swedish vascular surgeon Jonas Malmstedt, provides his analysis of Lüscher’s publications below. Another study which Malmstedt unpicks, is an opus from the Luxembourg Institute of Health (Alkerwi et al, 2016), which declared that eating chocolate makes you younger and healthier, and prevents diabetes on top. Continue reading “Chocolate health: advice by Thomas Lüscher and peer review by Jonas Malmstedt”

Two EMBO corrections for the martyred saint Maria Pia Cosma

Two EMBO corrections for the martyred saint Maria Pia Cosma

The cell biologist Maria Pia Cosma, top-funded and prize-winning professor in Barcelona, is either an indestructible zombie scientist or a martyred saint. Her name means in Italian Mary the Pious, so it is probably the latter. So the following post is written in the style of a canonical satire.

Holy Mary Pia was accused by evil tongues on PubPeer of research misconduct in several of her publications. Philistines pointed crooked fingers and cast stones at duplicated western blot bands in papers published by St. Maria Pia in exalted scriptures like Cell. The accusers, envious of such impact factors, wished those gospels of scientific truth crucified on the cross of retraction and demanded for Our Lady of Barcelona to be judged and investigated. Yet Lord took mercy upon the tortured saint and sent His angels to defend her.

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The martyr of research integrity, St. Maria Pia (right, standing) receives a sign for “Beatified”. Source: Cosma lab, under fair use

Continue reading “Two EMBO corrections for the martyred saint Maria Pia Cosma”

Untangling forgotten tracheal transplants of Heike and Thorsten Walles, who set a lawyer upon me

Untangling forgotten tracheal transplants of Heike and Thorsten Walles, who set a lawyer upon me

This is the story of three tracheal transplants, performed by the husband and wife team Thorsten Walles and Heike Mertsching (now Walles), former collaborators of Paolo Macchiarini. My investigation quickly led to the Walles couple setting their lawyer on me, demanding almost €3000 immediately and up to €100,000 later. Update: 2 weeks later, they had a Bavarian court sentence me behind my back to a €250,000 fine or 6 months prison term, read here. All because of a single short paragraph from this Macchiarini story, which mentioned their earlier activities. None of their current or former employers nor their lawyer chose to share any specific information about the 3 tracheal transplants, and the fate of these 3 patients.

Macchiarini and the Walleses started their tracheal transplant activities at the Hannover Medical School (MHH), under the regenerative medicine enthusiast Axel Haverich. Together, the team implanted in 2003 a tracheal patch into a cancer patient using a piece of pig intestine, and moved their separate ways soon afterwards.  Macchiarini went in 2004 to Barcelona, where he had his famous trachea transplant breakthrough in 2008 (see my report here). The Walles couple went in the same year to Stuttgart in southern Germany. The thorax surgeon Thorsten to the Robert Bosch Hospital, Clinic Schillerhöhe, the regenerative medicine-specialising biologist Heike (back then carrying the name of her previous husband, Mertsching) became professor at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (Fraunhofer IGB). There, the husband and wife team transplanted between 2007 and 2009 two more patients with tracheal replacements made from pig intestine. The clinical success and the actual performance of these transplants is unclear, it is also not helpful that authors chose to omit certain key aspects when the two cases were eventually published. Continue reading “Untangling forgotten tracheal transplants of Heike and Thorsten Walles, who set a lawyer upon me”