Game over apparently near for the indestructible Swedish regenerative medicine researcher Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson, after investigations at her University of Gothenburg draw to an end. It is about experimental transplants of decellurised veins “regenerated” with the patient’s own bone marrow cells into three child patients, all of whom ended up in life-long medical care, one patient received a liver transplant after her graft failed, another child suffered severe complications (see this earlier report about an external investigation by Bengt Gerdin into that matter). The University of Gothenburg then established an investigative committee, which followed up on the Gerdin report and specific concerns voiced by a journal editor and a colleague. I publish below the two decisions which revealed that Sumitran-Holgersson and her surgeon partner Michael Olausson never performed any animal testing before recruiting their human patients, they also failed to obtain ethics permits for these operations. Instead the two lied in their publications (Olausson et al, Lancet, 2012; Olausson et al EBioMedicine, 2014) about having obtained ethics votes (something I already uncovered before). During the investigation, Olausson and Sumitran-Holgersson were caught submitting false information to the committee. They were now found guilty of misconduct and ethics breach in both these publications. Continue reading “Sumitran-Holgersson and Olausson guilty of misconduct and unethical experiments on children”
Four private scientists without any agenda whatsoever published a research result preprint on the portal BioRxiv. The “new results” reported in the article are actually new ideas which are just as good as any research results, because they are supposed to bring the field of scholarly communication forward. The question is, where to, and why should anyone go there. Because the idea is to abolish the only tool science now has at hand to punish research misconduct: retractions. Fraudulent papers are to receive instead an amendment, which will notify those particularly inclined readers that research data or ethics approval (for clinical studies) might have been falsified or missing. Those proposing to remove the only punitive measure available in scholarly publishing are in fact the very people who are supposed to be overseeing the editorial integrity. The goats whom science welcomed as gardeners now dropped the pretence and declared their true vision for the garden. Continue reading “COPE, the publishers’ Trojan horse, calls to abolish retractions”
On March 16th I stood a court trial by the trachea transplanters and University of Würzburg professors Heike and Thorsten Walles against myself. The judge (it was the same who passed the injunction against me) will announce his decision on April 6th, just as I will stand trial in Berlin against their trachea transplant colleague Philipp Jungebluth (see this report). I publish here an extended memory-based protocol which I first published on Facebook. Meanwhile, several large institutions built a protective wall of silence around Walles and their tracheal transplants. The German Medical Association refused investigation in a bizarre letter which I also publish below.
The court hearing
It was the so-called speed trial, so instead of examining evidence, everyone was free to tell the judge their views. Mostly, Walles and their lawyer spoke, occasionally, my lawyer and I were able to squeeze a word in to reject the outlandish or false claims. For example, while her lawyer insisted the tracheal transplants were full success despite dead patients, Heike Walles challenged me to compare her transplants with the first heart transplant which failed. I pointed out that this is exactly the same argument Paolo Macchiarini uses to defend his own failed trachea transplants (for example, here). Continue reading “Will words or actual evidence count in the Walles case?”
The misconduct-tainted paper on oesophagus transplants in rats (Sjöqvist et al 2014) by the fallen star of regenerative medicine Paolo Macchiarini is finally retracted by the journal Nature Communications. This happens after Swedish investigations found the authors (primarily the scandal thorax surgeon and his right-hand man Philipp Jungebluth) guilty of data manipulation and research misconduct in September 2016 and after the Karolinska Institutet (KI) shortly before Christmas publicly demanded a retraction (see my report here). Today’s retraction is a major setback for Macchiarini, since his current employment and funding at the Federal University of Kazan (KFU) in Russia depend on his experiments with oesophageal transplants in primates (see my reports here and here). That Russian project was in turn only possible because of Macchiarini’s allegedly successful experiments in rats, published in a prestige journal with “Nature” in its title. This paper’s retraction is therefore probably only the beginning of a whole looming avalanche of bad news for Macchiarini and his acolyte Jungebluth (who currently sues me in court). An expert review of their publication Jungebluth et al 2015 declares the findings of misconduct, ethics breach and patient abuse. The report however has yet to be confirmed by a commission at the Swedish Central Ethics Review Board (CEPN) and then formulated as an official decree by the KI. I publish the expert reviewer report below. Continue reading “Retraction, and another looming misconduct finding for Macchiarini and Jungebluth”
This is a new guest post from Johan Thyberg, a retired professor for cell and molecular biology from Sweden, a known activist against science fraud and author of the 2009 book “Scientific Fraud or Legal Scandal?”. Thyberg played a key role in uncovering the research misconduct and horrendous patient abuse around the trachea transplant surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, which took place at Alma Mater, the Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm, and left at KI alone 3 patients dead (his last plastic trachea recipient there, Yesim Cetir, died yesterday after years of suffering).
After a previous guest post by Thyberg, which criticised KI’s handling of the Macchiarini scandal, it is an honour for me to present his new article on my site. It deals with another international star of regenerative medicine whom KI recruited soon after Macchiarini: Kenneth Chien. The people who recruited Chien were also the same who made Macchiarini’s professorship at KI possible: the then-chancellor Harriet Wallberg and the cell biology professor Urban Lendahl. Both had to resign from their positions with the KI’s Nobel Committee in the wake of Macchiarini scandal (see my report here).
This is what Chien’s 20-head strong lab is working on at KI, according to its website:
“The central scientific interest of the Chien lab is to understand heart development at the molecular and cellular level, with the ultimate goal of applying the developmental principles, logic, pathways, technology, and model systems to unravel human heart disease”.
According to Thyberg, Chien’s engagement at KI is less about his actual scientific achievements, which seem objectively rather modest relative to his elite status there, but more about personal networks and money, which include pharma industry and a certain Chinese investor. One of these Chien-related businesses is Moderna Therapeutics, a biotech start-up which STAT News brought a critical special report on.
Below I am publishing Thyberg’s own English version article, a Swedish version appeared on March 17th on NewsVoice.
The German trachea transplanters Heike and Thorsten Walles fitted three patients with pig-intestine-based airway grafts. They responded to my inquisitive reporting about these with a court injunction, the trial takes place this week, on March 16th. A commission of their Unversity of Würzburg initially absolved Walles of all suspicions of research misconduct, only to start the investigation anew as evidence of heavy data manipulation in their papers emerged (see my previous report). Roland Jahns, specially recruited as medical expert from the same University Clinic Würzburg where both Walleses work, was dismissed after he insulted me as “pseudoscientist” to defend his colleagues’ questionable attitude to data integrity, medical ethics and patient welfare. A new expert will be recruited, but Jahns did reveal some clues to what happened to the two last Walles patients operated in Stuttgart in 2007 and 2009, just before they received their professorships in Würzburg.
It appears Thorsten Walles issued two radically opposing versions of the 2007 patient’s state. In his publications, he presented the intervention as “compassionate use” case and the patient as stable, but in need of innovative strategies to cure his condition. In the medical file however, Walles described the patient as terminally ill and dying from cancer. The intervention to replace his airways with a never-before-tested pig-intestine large patch was presented as a palliative approach, which however turns the entire concept of either palliative care or compassionate use care on its head. In any case, the graft had to be removed after only 2 weeks, the patient died four weeks later due to massive bleeding and multi-organ failure. Walles decided that this disastrous incident had nothing to do with the transplant, so when they recruited their next patient to sign an informed consent in 2009, they simply didn’t tell him what happened to his predecessor. That last patient was also post-suicidal and in psychiatric treatment (though not yet officially of unsound mind, his mental state further deteriorated later on). Continue reading “Walles tracheal transplant patients: secrets and lies”
The University of Würzburg did not ignore the Open Letter in support of my journalism, and has concluded its internal investigation into medical and scientific activities of their trachea transplanters Heike and Thorsten Walles, without finding any misconduct. This was however not the end of it. I was invited to appeal this decision in front of the commission, which I did on March 6th 2017. In the end, the medical “external consultant”, Roland Jahns (specialist in inner medicine from the University Clinic of Würzburg) was catapulted out of the commission after insulting me as “pseudoscientist” and the entire investigation will be re-opened, with a new consultant to be recruited. The main reason: a newly emerged wealth of evidence of gross data manipulations in the papers by Walles, which readers of my site posted on PubPeer just when I arrived in Würzburg to give evidence.
During my discussion with the Standing Commission for the Investigation of Scientific Misconduct of the University of Würzburg on March 6th, I was also told that the commission does not see my original text, for which I am facing a court trial on March 16th, as factually wrong. All information provided there was deemed correct except of one aspect: my readers were said to be led to misunderstand that the trachea transplant operations took place in Würzburg (while they happened in Stuttgart). The commission made clear that their university does not want to be associated with these transplants. They did however admit that the misunderstanding arose because Walles themselves have been placing such false information in media (including this recent article in the Siemens magazine), and even on the University of Würzburg website. The commission however assigned to me the responsibility of checking in advance the truthfulness of such obscure sources. Continue reading “Würzburg misconduct Commission acquits Walles, dismisses biased medical expert, restarts anew as data manipulations flood in”