Imagine you are Martin Birchall, laryngologist and ENT surgeon, star of regenerative medicine at UCL and trachea transplant enthusiast. You and your business partner Videregen need to explain to EU bureaucrats why your technology of decellurised cadaveric trachea is perfectly safe, what with all the dead patients of yours and your former best friend Paolo Macchiarini. Preclinical animal tests? Good idea indeed, though you have already published some very shady pig studies with Macchiarini in 2010, after you operated your first human patient in 2008 (whom you keep parading as success story of your stem cell magic superpowers, despite heavy complications which almost killed your research subject).
To distance yourself from that horrid Macchiarini, you do new preclinical tests. Enter three more pigs, which you decide transplant with a cadaveric decellurised human trachea. One trachea turns out to have been dirty not just with human “stem” cells, but also with pathogenic bacteria. So that one piggy got lucky and was set free. The unlucky other two: dead “of respiratory compromise”, one already after 12 days, the other suffered for a whole month after trachea transplant. You now have 100% preclinical mortality rate, and you still manage to convince the bureaucrats that the method works and 48 human patients must experience same, in the EU-funded phase 2 clinical trial TETRA. Thing is, that trachea transplant trial was supposed to help tracheal stenosis patients, by ridding them of burdensome stents and bronchoscopies, and not to euthanise them. Continue reading “Birchall’s two dead pigs to prove trachea transplants are safe”→
The European Commission now admits to me, through European Ombudsman, that their €6.8 mn phase 2 clinical trial TETRA with cadaveric tracheas, led by the UCL laryngologist Martin Birchallis unlikely to ever recruit any patients, because “the current delay to the INSPIRE project therefore makes the prospects for the commencement and completion of the TETRA project uncertain“.
INSPIRE is a phase 1 clinical trial in UK, suspended since December 2016, which was about to recruit 4 patients for trachea transplants using the technology of cadaveric tracheas Birchall developed together with his former partner, the scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini. The UK trial was suspended by UK authorities because of my reporting, its funding ran out and it is unlikely to be ever resumed. Even the official sponsor of both INSPIRE and TETRA, Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult, sulkily announced to change the status of the former trial from “active, not recruiting” to “suspended” at the Clinicaltrials.gov website. And without INSPIRE (which EU Commission prefers to see as “delayed“, not as suspended) the phase 2 clinical trial TETRA becomes just a grave for tax money, but luckily not for patients. This is something however EU Commission sees no problem with, and these are their views declared to me in the nutshell, via a letter from European Ombudsman to whom I complained after my Freedom of Information request was rejected by EU Commission twice (here and here):
EU Commission refuses access to TETRA documentation because this could be “potentially causing reputational damage to the consortium and individuals linked to it“.
EU Commission sees no imminent “public health concerns or public benefits” because “the TETRA clinical trial is dependent on the successful completion of the INSPIRE project“
The trial will not be terminated, and will simply trudge on until the end of its funding period on 31 December 2019.
EU Commission maintains that Macchiarini only transplanted plastic tracheas and had no contribution to the cadaveric trachea technology of INSPIRE and TETRA: “the scientific research involved in TETRA is pursuing a different method than the one developed by the doctor who has been subject to misconduct investigations“
EU commission maintains that cadaveric trachea transplants, including those principal investigator Birchall was involved in, were either full successes (where patients survived) or they never happened (where patients died). The list of dead and mutilated patients who received cadaveric tracheas, which I specifically sent to EU Commission, was dismissed as not relevant for the current clinical trial
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?”→
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”→
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 Lévy. The 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”→
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.
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.
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.