UCL’s decellurised tracheas: strong and stable?

UCL’s decellurised tracheas: strong and stable?

The European Union Commission staunchly refuses to tell me what exactly their funded scientists intend to do to the scheduled 48 trachea transplant patients under the Horizon 2020-financed phase 2 clinical trial TETRA. By now the highest authority, the European Ombudsman, is engaged, and still EU Commission does not bulge. The general technology of TETRA and its indefinitely suspended phase 1 UK predecessor Inspire is however known: cadaveric tracheas from dead donors will be collected, decellurised to remove all the host cellular tissue, and then subjected to the magic of recellurisation in bioreactors, where bone marrow and epithelial cells will turn a dead carcass into a living organ, ready for transplant.

The cadaveric grafts must either to be obtained very fresh (a nightmare of impracticability), or kept frozen before they are needed, otherwise they will rot. Leanne Partington, a PhD student of the UCL trachea makers Mark Lowdell and Martin Birchall, investigated in her 2014 PhD thesis the effect of this freeze-thaw step on the decellurisation process (it proved to increase efficiency) but also on the graft stability, as measured by compression tests. This is where it turned out that the defrosted grafts lost roughly half of their mechanical stability. Which means they would collapse immediately when implanted into patient, which was indeed exactly what happened. Yet UCL and EU Commission want to keep trying, and according to the patented technology by the trial sponsor Videregen, defrosted tracheas are to be used. Which by EU business-oriented logic suggests, the patented technology from the freezer is to be used in TETRA.

The two experiments UCL performed on the patients Ciaran Lynch and Shauna Davison in 2010 and 2012, respectively (read here), used defrosted tracheas. Both trachea grafts collapsed right away, only that Birchall and his partners decided to omit this critical information about Ciaran’s trachea in their Elliott et al Lancet 2012 paper, while telling untruths about Shauna’s fate. The UCL trachea transplanters until very recently either forgot about Shauna’s existence, or pretended her new trachea functioned great up to her allegedly unrelated death just two weeks after the transplant.  Continue reading “UCL’s decellurised tracheas: strong and stable?”

Trachea transplanters: Round 2 at UK Parliament

Trachea transplanters: Round 2 at UK Parliament

The Science and Technology Committee of the British House of Commons is now dealing with the trachea transplants performed by the scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini and his former parter at UCL, Martin Birchall as part of its inquiry into Research Integrity. Two UK scientists from Liverpool initiated this with their written submission from November 21st 2017 which I previously re-published: Patricia Murray, professor in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, previously a nurse on a Head and Neck unit, and Raphael Lévy, senior lecturer in nanotechnology. Their concerns were not just the past trachea transplants, but also the present clinical trials with bioengineered trachea and larynx which UCL is most keen to start with, following the recommendation of an investigative commission from last year. UCL’s problem is however, that the two phase 1 UK trials are suspended by the UK authorities, and the big phase 2 EU-sponsored trial cannot begin recruiting patients without the results from phase 1.

By now it looks like UCL and their laryngology professor Birchall are in a pickle. Their own reply to the letter by Murray and Levy was not really honest when describing past UCL trachea transplant patients to the Parliament committee. On top of it, it turned out Birchall was reusing data from same old experiments on 16 pigs across different publications which were meant to show separate studies. This, and many more inconsistencies of UCL’s reply to the House of Commons are addressed in the re-published new letter by Murray and Levy from January 30th 2018 below. Continue reading “Trachea transplanters: Round 2 at UK Parliament”

UCL fibs Parliament about trachea transplants

UCL fibs Parliament about trachea transplants

The esteemed London university UCL seems to live in its own world. There, the regenerative medicine magic thrives, living organs miraculously grow in labs, while stem cell-made trachea transplants proved a blessing for humanity, despite the negative vibes from UCL’s former honorary professor Paolo Macchiarini. UCL’s own laryngology professor and regenerative medicine enthusiast Martin Birchall cured several patients already, and it is imperative that he is allowed to save more lives with his tracheas and voiceboxes, regenerated from dead decellurised carcasses using patient’s own bone marrow cells. Scientific evidence and research integrity are nothing but cumbersome bureaucracy, which restrain the genius of Birchall, whose educated guess alone should suffice as solid proof.

This is basically how UCL replied to the to request from the Science and Technology Committee of the British House of Commons, following a critique of Birchall’s trachea transplants submitted as RES0022 on November 21st 2017 by the Liverpool scientists  Patricia Murray and Raphael LévyThe undated UCL reply appeared online around the New Year and is a staunch defence of  Birchall’s endeavours, while calling the two Liverpool researchers “emotive” and dismissing the evidence on my site as inaccurate.  It is authored by UCL Registrar Wendy Appleby, who incidentally was now appointed by UCL to investigate Birchall’s data re-use, where he apparently resurrected long-dead pigs twice, by turning some ancient animal experiment data with regenerated larynx into two fresh and very distinct studies.

The biggest inaccuracy, or barefaced lie (as you prefer), is UCL’s pretence that they had nothing at all to do with a certain lethal transplant of a cadeveric trachea, performed by Macchiarini on July 13th 2010 in Italy on the young British patient Keziah Shorten. I have been protesting to UCL Hospital (UCLH) and the British information authorities for a whole year against the refusal of UCLH to release the information about their involvement into that trachea transplant, and eventually UCLH was forced to reply to me. Even then they only admitted what I already knew, and now they hide this information from the UK Parliament inquiry. I will share it here then. Continue reading “UCL fibs Parliament about trachea transplants”

Image reuse, the new low of UCL trachea transplanter Martin Birchall?

Image reuse, the new low of UCL trachea transplanter Martin Birchall?

With his three trachea transplant clinical trials suspended, the British laryngologist and UCL professor Martin Birchall now tries to pull at least the clinical trial RegenVox, which is about the “regenerated” voice-box (larynx) and upper trachea, out of the bog. In order to get an approval to transplant human patients, UCL’s chief trachea transplanter tries to prove in several papers to his funder MRC that the technology is safe in pigs. For this he seems to be reusing data in his recent papers from 2017, to illustrate utterly different experiments, in fact some of this data is at least 7 years old. One wonders if Birchall fibbed the authorities and the scientific community about the novel nature of his results. Was the confused scientist simply salami-publishing and re-interpreting the preclinical data he actually obtained long before he received MRC funding for RegenVox? The evidence of the larynx transplant data reuse across two recent papers and the grant proposal document from 2010 follows below, background on Birchall’s RegenVox and his trachea transplant adventures is here and here.

The UCL laryngologist uses the technology which developed with his former partner, the scandal trachea transplant surgeon Paolo Macchiarini. The method is to strip the cadaveric donor organ of all cells (in a process called decellurisation) and then bring it back to life as recipient’s own organ using the magic of bone marrow cells. In Birchall’s own words, those magic cells recognise the decellurised organ by its shape and know what to do then: Continue reading “Image reuse, the new low of UCL trachea transplanter Martin Birchall?”

Tissue-engineered tracheas: an assessment of the scientific, clinical and ethical implications

Tissue-engineered tracheas: an assessment of the scientific, clinical and ethical implications

Here I republish the written evidence submitted to by two UK scientists to the Science and Technology Committee of the British House of Commons and its inquiry into Research Integrity, as originally published on November 21st 2017. It deals with the trachea transplants performed by the surgeons Paolo Macchiarini and his former parter at UCL, Martin Birchall. The report’s lead author is Patricia Murray, professor in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, previously a nurse on a Head and Neck unit. She generously invited me in May 2017 to give a seminar at her department at the University of Liverpool on this topic. Her coauthor is Raphael Lévy, senior lecturer in nanotechnology and imaging at the same university. I wrote about his reproducibility studies on the topic of nanoparticles in this article.

800ABE38-9C0C-4E6A-A0A6-014E8827B9E3 Trish
Prof. Patricia Murray

UCL recently investigated Birchall’s past trachea transplants, and recommended to continue with his two current clinical trials to transplant cadaveric decellurised trachea and larynx, regenerated with bone marrow cells, as I reported here. For some reason, UCL Registrar Wendy Appleby, when speaking as witness on November 21st in front of the Parliament Inqury, found herself unable to answer the rather straightforward question whether the UCL investigative commission advised to continue transplanting trachea or not (watch here, from 11:50 on). Appleby and her UCL were instructed by the Inquiry to address the concerns by Murray and Levy in writing.

Both clinical trials  Inspire and RegenVox were already placed by the supervising authorities on hold, Murray and Levy now call to stop the dangerous and science-unsupported experimenting on misinformed human patients and to return back to the lab.

Following is a copy of the (originally published on the UK Parliament website), Continue reading “Tissue-engineered tracheas: an assessment of the scientific, clinical and ethical implications”

Martin Birchall’s shaky road to mass trachea transplanting

Martin Birchall’s shaky road to mass trachea transplanting

The British laryngologist and UCL professor Martin Birchall is one of the two founding fathers of “bioengineered” trachea, the other one being his former partner, the scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini. Birchall presently runs three trachea transplant trials clinical trials, two in the UK and one EU-wide. His patients must however wait to be cured, because the two UK trials, Inspire and RegenVox (with the latter primarily about larynx and upper trachea transplant) were both placed on hold, and the EU funded phase 2 trial TETRA is still far from getting an ethics approval and just now lost one potential trial site after the Medical University Vienna jumped ship. The EU Commission refuses to tell me anything about TETRA, except that it has not applied for ethics approval yet. EU’s Transparence department still evade commenting on how to put this scheduled 48 patient clinical trial in context of the 11 cadaveric trachea transplants by Macchiarini and Birchall, most or maybe even all of which left the patients either dead or mutilated.

In this article, I publish the most recent patient information sheets for the two suspended Inspire and RegenVox trachea transplant clinical trials, which I obtained under Freedom of Information request from the UK Health Research Authority (HRA).  Continue reading “Martin Birchall’s shaky road to mass trachea transplanting”

Alexander Seifalian, UCL’s Persian Scapegoat

Alexander Seifalian, UCL’s Persian Scapegoat

The London university UCL has now completed the investigation into the affair around their past honorary professor and now disgraced thoracic surgeon Paolo Macchiarini and the trachea transplants. Subject of the investigation were: the two plastic tracheas UCL produced (one sent to Karolinska Institutet and implanted in patient Andemariam Beyene in Stockholm, another used by UCL laryngologist Martin Birchall to treat Keziah Shorten, who previously received a cadaveric trachea from Macchiarini as requested by UCL) as well as four more cadaveric trachea transplants, namely the very first such intervention organised by Macchiarini and Birchall in Barcelona in 2008, on patient Claudia Castillo, as well as the three trachea transplants which took place under UCL oversight in London, on paediatric patients Ciaran Lynch, Shauna Davison and a 3-year old child who was transplanted just in May 2017 at the same Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). The offhand revelations about the last transplant in this UCL report came as surprise, since it was otherwise kept secret.

No information is provided by the investigative report on how that child is doing now, in fact it seems no evidence like laboratory books, research data or patients’ medical files was ever requested and the committee relied solely on the opinions provided by the very people they were supposed to investigate: Paolo Macchiarini, Martin Birchall and GOSH paediatric surgeon and past director Martin Elliott. In fact, the report seems to become very nebulous or even creative with its use of alternative facts to avoid implicating Birchall in anything unethical at all. The only guilty party in this medical scandal is incidentally also the only non-clinician and the only non-white character in the entire Macchiarini affair: the nuclear physicist Alexander Seifalian, a Persian-Armenian and dual citizen of Iran and UK, whose lab manufactured two plastic tracheas. He was already sacked by UCL in July 2016, accused of bribery. Seifalian is also bowel cancer survivor, which did not prevent UCL of accusing him of failing to oversee the abroad clinical application of his produce just when he was receiving chemotherapy.

These are the results of UCL investigation in the nutshell:

  • All UCL-employed clinicians involved in trachea transplants, in particular UCL’s chief trachea transplanter Martin Birchall, are fully acquitted from any suspicion of misconduct or clinical wrongdoing. Even Macchiarini seems partially exonerated from the gist of the UCL report, because:
  • The maker of the two plastic tracheas, Alexander Seifalian, is to take all the UCL-related blame for the failed  transplants (as well as other plastics implants in India, Iran and Switzerland). His fault is to have manufactured these products though his UCL lab lacked GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certificate. Only this lack of GMP-quality seal was what apparently made plastic tracheas too dangerous to implant in humans.
  • All five cadaveric trachea transplants under the scope of investigation were considered ethically, medically and scientifically justified. Deaths of the patients were explained with new discoveries of recurrent cancer, or demands of other patients for the same hospital bed.
  • Birchall’s clinical trials with cadaveric tracheas (phase 1/2a INSPIRE, and by extension, also EU-wide phase 2 TETRA) are to go ahead as planned and to recruit patients. Same positive recommendation for Birchall’s related trial RegenVox on cadaveric larynx, decellurised and “regenerated” with same technology as tracheas.

Continue reading “Alexander Seifalian, UCL’s Persian Scapegoat”