The vexatious life-saving question of cadaveric tracheas

The vexatious life-saving question of cadaveric tracheas

s we learned it from the Swedish documentary „Experimenten“, the scandal trachea surgeon Paolo Macchiarini didn’t much like to operate on sick cancer patients: they died too quickly after receiving a trachea transplant. This is why Macchiarini was said to have moved on to patients outside of any life-threatening conditions, like the Russian car accident victim Yulia Tuulik. She died because of the plastic trachea which Macchiarini implanted into her. Yesim Cetir, young victim of a botched operation, was slightly luckier to survive the plastic trachea, but only because it was removed and because of constant emergency care and multiple organ transplants (she is presently in very grave state). However, it seems that even Macchiarini’s cancer patients could have led a relatively long life, had they not agreed to receive his trachea transplants. And I am not speaking about the lethal plastic ones. In fact, the “biological” grafts made of decellurised dead donor tracheas were not such a great success either, and seem to have brought suffering and have shortened lives instead of prolonging them. The British UCL and its hospital UCLH are preparing their own clinical trial with cadaveric tracheas, while busily covering up their role in the Macchiarini scandal.

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Collapse of Biotrachea, or how Macchiarini’s greed saved human lives

Collapse of Biotrachea, or how Macchiarini’s greed saved human lives

The trachea transplant experiments by Paolo Macchiarini left many of his trusting patients dead or mutilated. His €5.5 Million EU-funded research project Biotrachea started in April 2012 and was specifically designed to treat even more human beings with lethal plastic tracheas (and with the slightly less lethal cadaveric ones). The consortium was terminated in 2014 (see some background here), but not because the Biotrachea scientists or EU officials suddenly had second thoughts when the Macchiarini scandal unraveled and when his misconduct, ethics breaches as well as painful deaths and suffering of his plastic trachea recipients became known. Unlike an EU spokesperson previously insisted, there were no ethics concerns at all regarding Biotrachea. In fact, all ethics approvals were in place, human Guinea pigs were supposed to be lured en masse using a highly inappropriate patient consent form towards their likely deaths for the sake of EU-funded mega-science.

In truth, Biotrachea collapsed only because of Macchiarini’s greed for money. His financial conflict about patent revenues with the British university UCL drove the star surgeon to seek another plastic transplant manufacturer and then to destroy the entire multinational research consortium which he was presiding over, after the EU rejected his new plastic provider. Not because that one was also deemed unsafe, but as the EU negotiators mentioned, it was because that new type of plastic trachea lacked novelty. All this only became known after the original Biotrachea documents, which the EU and all consortium participants refused to grant me any insight into, were fully legally obtained by Jonas Malmstedt under Swedish transparency from Macchiarini’s ex-employer, the Karolinska Institutet (KI). Thanks to this brave and decent surgeon, I make all that secret documentation available below.

Continue reading “Collapse of Biotrachea, or how Macchiarini’s greed saved human lives”

The newly found innocence of Paolo Macchiarini

The newly found innocence of Paolo Macchiarini

The tide is turning for the fallen star surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, who transplanted numerous patients with lethal tracheas made out of dead donor organs or plastic and sprinkled with cells from the bone marrow. Just when Macchiarini started to became the synonym for everything what is bad and evil in regenerative medicine, after two damning investigations by his former employers Karolinska Institutet (KI) and the Karolinska University Hospital, things began to change for the better.

In a surprising decision, the Italian court in Florence cleared the former head surgeon of Careggi Hospital of all accusations of fraud (Macchiarini was accused of extortion, namely of huge sums from patient families while offering to save the terminally ill). This court decision prompted the Tuscan governor Enrico Rossi to immediately lament the loss of a “great surgeon”, who would have done so much good if he only remained in Florence, under proper control. Back in 2010, this politician’s exalting letter of recommendation helped Macchiarini to get the KI professorship despite the many negative references from his medical colleagues.

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Frontiers’ Bread Madness

The journal Frontiers in Human Neurosciences now published a paper titled: “Bread and Other Edible Agents of Mental Disease“. It is authored by two psychologists, Paola Bressan and Peter Kramer from the Department of General Psychology at University of Padova in Italy, and claims “in non-technical, plain English” that mental diseases such as schizophrenia and autism are caused by bread (yes, you read right, bread). In their “review article” Bressan and Kramer claim to provide evidence that bread gluten makes “holes in our gut”, thus activating an immune response, and is degraded into opioid substances (“some of them resemble morphine extremely much”). The casein in milk has allegedly exactly the same effect, and cure for “schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and autism” is possible by adhering to a strict bread- and milk-free diet. In fact, other staple foods might make you mad as well, as authors conclude:

“Bread is the very symbol of food, and learning that it can threaten our mental wellbeing may come as a shock to many. Yet bread is not alone; like it, other foodstuffs, such as milk, rice, and corn, release exorphins during digestion”.

Though the paper appeared on March 29th, it was meant seriously and not as an April 1st joke. Continue reading “Frontiers’ Bread Madness”

Academic self-plagiarism: misconduct or a literary art form?

Academic self-plagiarism: misconduct or a literary art form?

Plagiarism, the misappropriation of the (usually written) work of others in order to present it as one’s own, is universally regarding as academic misconduct. A number of German politicians and even government ministers saw their stellar careers damaged (sometimes beyond repair), and their beloved doctorate degrees occasionally taken away, after they were discovered to have plagiarized large sections of their dissertations.

But what about self-plagiarism, where scientists recycle their own texts and data for new papers, and occasionally even re-publish entire articles (with minor changes)? Most journals, keen to publish original works only, do not allow self-plagiarism. But the science publisher and Open Access pioneer Jan Velterop even suggests that self-plagiarism should be an acceptable or even welcome thing in academic publishing.

Debora Weber-Wulff, professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin and THE specialist for plagiarism detection, disagrees. She is one of the contributors of the anti-plagiarism platform VroniPlag Wiki where the above-mentioned German politicians and many medical doctors were exposed for stealing texts for their own dissertations. Here is what Weber-Wulff told me: Continue reading “Academic self-plagiarism: misconduct or a literary art form?”

Macchiarini and Karolinska: the biomedical ethics meltdown

Macchiarini and Karolinska: the biomedical ethics meltdown

Paolo Macchiarini, the charismatic star surgeon and stem cell pioneer, once lauded for saving lives of suffocating patients, is now really in trouble. Having described himself once in The Lancet as “a wild animal that does not need to be in a cage”, Macchiarini might soon find himself behind bars for medical malpractice. Six of the eight patients, into whom he transplanted artificial tracheas, without having first tried the method in animal models, have died, while another nanopolymer graft recipient is in permanent critical care. The youngest casualty was a two-year old child in the US. The most recent death was that of a Russian patient in Krasnodar, where Macchiarini works as “leading scientist” at the Kuban State Medical University. Also some of those patients of Macchiarini’s, who received cell-free trachea from cadaver donors, are dead or dependent on stents to be able to breathe. Suppressed evidence turned up that the Italian surgeon committed fraud, clinical and scientific misconduct as well as other crimes, while receiving best possible institutional protection at the Swedish elite university, the Karolinska Institute (KI).

Macchiarini revelations are not really a surprise to KI, the scandal actually began to simmer as soon as the Italian surgeon joined KI.

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