Würzburg misconduct Commission acquits Walles, dismisses biased medical expert, restarts anew as data manipulations flood in

Würzburg misconduct Commission acquits Walles, dismisses biased medical expert, restarts anew as data manipulations flood in

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”

Growing hearts in Hannover: a job opening

The Medical University of Hannover (MHH) in the German Lower Saxony is searching to recruit a professor who can grow human heart tissue from stem cells (see official call here). If you think you are the right kind of miracle doctor, you must hurry to apply: the deadline is August 26th 2016.

The recruiting MHH department is the clinic for heart, thorax, transplant and vascular surgery and its subdivision of the Leibniz Research Laboratories for Biotechnology and Artificial Organs (LEBAO). LEBAO was established by the heart surgeon and clinic head Axel Haverich, whose goals included creating stem cell-derived organs such as tracheas (hence the transient recruitment of the now disgraced thorax surgeon Paolo Macchiarini to his MHH department at the beginning of the century). Both Macchiarini’s and Haverich’s main objective was to grow a living human heart in a plastic box inside tissue culture incubator (the contraption is also known under the more fancy term “bioreactor”). In fact, Haverich repeatedly predicted to be able to achieve this even before his upcoming retirement (see my report here). The method was originally supposed to be that of stripping dead donor hearts of living tissue and seeding these carcasses with “magic” bone marrow stem cells. Later on, Haverich imagined it more high-tech: 3D laser printers would shoot cells of various types into a shape of a heart, and voila, it would come alive and start beating, ready to save another human life. Continue reading “Growing hearts in Hannover: a job opening”

Regenerating in Hannover, Part 2: Axel Haverich’s “growing” heart valves

Regenerating in Hannover, Part 2: Axel Haverich’s “growing” heart valves

The science of the fallen star of regenerative medicine Paulo Macchiarini was simple: take a dead organ, strip it of its cells and seed the carcass with stem cells (usually the magic cells from bone marrow). After some days in a “bioreactor”, you take out a living trachea, esophagus, even heart, and implant it into a patient. Another human life saved, and not only media, even scientist colleagues fell for this outrageous quackery. As the result of this hubris, several patients died, others remained in permanent critical care. Macchiarini and his partners Philipp Jungebluth, Martin Birchall and others had to fake ethics approvals as well as to lie and cheat about medical records in their publications in The Lancet, all in order to present a miserably suffering recipient of a ”regenerated” trachea as fully recovered. Animal experiments were performed only after Macchiarini’s team operated their first human patient, as indirectly evidenced by Jungebluth’s own doctorate thesis at the Medical University Hannover (MHH) in Germany.

Macchiarini began to develop his “decell-recell” method of organ regeneration while working in Hannover, close to the renowned heart surgeon and MHH clinic director, Axel Haverich (see Part 1 for the background). In 2009, the Italian cheater then moved on to a professorship at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, where he was showered in funding money and received best institutional protection, despite his patient abuse and his lies about his qualifications. Continue reading “Regenerating in Hannover, Part 2: Axel Haverich’s “growing” heart valves”

Regenerating in Hannover, Part 1: how Macchiarini got ideas

Regenerating in Hannover, Part 1: how Macchiarini got ideas

The trachea surgeon and formerly world-renowned stem cell pioneer Paolo Macchiarini, whose human experimenting left most of his trachea-transplant patients dead or in permanent emergency care, certainly did not intend to restrict himself to regenerating airways. He wanted to grow hearts, and he was likely to have been inspired by his former colleagues in Hannover, Germany.

In a particularly revealing interview with a Russian magazine, Macchiarini explained in spring 2014 how an entire organ can be created:

“You cannot grow an entire organ from the cells of an adult human. Besides the cells, you need something else: donor organ or an artificial carcass”.

Thus, for Macchiarini regenerative medicine was reduced to pressing bone marrow cells into the right mould, either a decellurised donor organ consisting only of collagen fibres, or a plastic scaffold. If the form is of trachea, the bone marrow cells will regenerate a trachea. If the form is that of an oesophagus, they will grow an oesophagus. And if they are seeded of a heart-shaped scaffold, they will produce a real beating heart. This of course is one deeply ignorant and unscientific notion, which blatantly disregards the most basic concepts of developmental biology in favour of medical hubris and false promises. Shockingly, politicians, media, university doctors and even stem cell scientists somehow fell for it. Continue reading “Regenerating in Hannover, Part 1: how Macchiarini got ideas”