A most bizarre thing happened. In the aftermath of the scandal around the thoracic surgeon and regenerative medicine enthusiast Paolo Macchiarini, which left many patients dead, his former employer Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm, Sweden, requested a retraction of one of his papers. It was not about a trachea transplant, but about unethical and painful medical experiments on a dying patient (actually, two of them). KI’s decision to request a retraction of the paper Jungebluth et al, “Autologous peripheral blood mononuclear cells as treatment in refractory acute respiratory distress syndrome”, Respiration, 2015 was based on the investigation commissioned by Swedish Central Ethics Review Board (CEPN). The Swiss-German and family-owned medical publisher Karger and its journal Respiration however categorically refused to retract the paper and ordered KI not “to patronize the readers of the journal ‘Respiration’.”
It gets much worse. The German Editor-in-Chief of this journal has a huge conflict of interest. It is better you just read on, because if I try to summarize it here, I might get sued by Macchiarini’s German friends and associates once again, and next time it might even be prison for me. In Germany, doctors have a very special status. Journalists or even patients do not, as I learned in court.
Continue reading “Karolinska gets taught German medical ethics”
Giorgio Zauli is Italian clinical haematologist and cancer researcher, who used to be director of Burlo Garofolo Pediatric Institute in Trieste, till in 2015 he was appointed Rector of the respected University of Ferrara. In this position he might soon be investigating his own papers, because given the massive evidence uncovered by the pseudonymous data integrity sleuth Clare Francis and others, Zauli seems to become a second Alfredo Fusco, and given his Rector status, probably just as unshakable. In Italy, science and politics are unhealthily interconnected, as demonstrated by the deadly scandal of Paolo Macchiarini in Florence. In any case, the list of gross irregularities in Zauli’s papers on PubPeer grows daily.
Zauli’s impressive publishing record consists of almost 200 first- and last-author papers in prestigious journals and his h-index bears the impressive size of 57. Some of this academic output, largely co-authored by his close associate and head of his department in Ferrara, Paola Secchiero (h-index 41), was achieved by their rather questionable attitude to data integrity. Of course we have the usual: western blots with duplicated gel lanes and bands re-appearing in several figures and papers, standing in for different experiments and even different patients. This article however will focus on Zauli’s flow cytometry studies, and how such data in his publications apparently got manipulated in a way which is supposed to provide deniability should the authors ever be caught.
Continue reading “Flawed cytometry of Rector Giorgio Zauli”
Yesim Cetir was a young woman from Turkey, whose vulnerability the scandal surgeon used to test his plastic trachea (twice), a third such operation he performed at the hospital of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and his fifth plastic trachea recipient. Like almost all the at least 17 patients whom Paolo Macchiarini experimented upon with either cadaveric or plastic trachea, Yesim died. Her suffering was long and horrible, her father Hayrullah Cetir dedicated all his waking hours to caring for his daughter. He died himself soon after her, from a neglected cancer.
Since April 2017, Yesim’s family (or in US legalese, the Estate of Yasim Cetir) is suing the company Harvard Bioscience, which spin-off Biostage (in turn formerly known as Harvard Apparatus) produced the bioreactors and the second plastic trachea graft used by Macchiarini on Yesim. Also the manufacturer of her first plastic trachea, Nanofiber Solutions, is being sued at the Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts, USA, case number 1784CV01174. An article in Boston Business Journal indicated that even Macchiarini himself might be subject to the wrongful death lawsuit:
“Now, the estate of one of the deceased patients is pursuing wrongful death claims against both Biostage and Macchiarini”
Continue reading “Macchiarini victim’s family sues trachea makers for wrongful death”
News from the trachea transplant entrepreneurs. What with the UK authorities having officially suspended both phase 1 clinical trials Inspire and RegenVox, and the EU phase 2 clinical trial TETRA going nowhere, the technology’s owner, Liverpool-based company Videregen decided to seek new clinical partners. Surgeons and universities from outside the EU, especially from US, China and Japan are invited to test Videregen’s trachea transplant technology, which was originally developed together with Paolo Macchiarini by the UCL laryngologist and paid Videregen advisor Martin Birchall.
While tracheal stenosis was the indication sought to treat with trachea transplants in UK and EU (as the authorities drew curtains before the show even started), Videregen now goes for bronchopleural fistula, while pretending (quite dishonestly) that “all required regulatory and ethical approvals necessary to commence clinical trials in the UK” would exist.
The other bit of news is that UCL finally published the 2015 PhD thesis of Birchall’s student Claire Crowley (now postdoctoral scientist in charge of clinical research on oesophagus replacement with UCL professor and another trachea transplanter Paolo De Coppi). It reads as if certain parts of the thesis were edited or even written by UCL’s legal department. Not what thesis says, but what is omitted is worrisome. Crowley was namely responsible for the production of 3 trachea replacements requested by Birchall, which all proved deadly to their human recipients. One was a decellurised cadaveric graft, and two were POSS-PCU plastic tracheas, which Crowley made herself, in the lab of her other advisor, the (now sacked) UCL nanotechnologist Alexander Seifalian. Yet the thesis only mentions one graft, in a brief one-page statement, simply because Crowley could not deny her role there. She is co-author on the Macchiarini paper Jungebluth et al Lancet 2011 telling the alleged success story of the very first plastic trachea transplant performed in Sweden on the patient Andemariam Beyene. Otherwise, Crowley never mentions in her thesis the cases of Keziah Shorten or Shauna Davison, whose lethal trachea grafts she also made herself, as part of her PhD studies. Continue reading “Trachea transplanters without borders”
German academic jargon has a peculiar expression: Doktorvater. It means “doctoral father”, a fatherly figure who takes his helpless PhD student progeny by the hand and guides and teaches the offspring of his academic loins the wisdom of science, up to the graduation. Nowadays with the system being less patriarchal, one can instead have the figure of a Doktormutter, doctoral mother. Which obviously doesn’t bring same gravitas or inspires same respect and awe, and is therefore hardly ever used.
The German diabetologist and Professor and University of Bremen Kathrin Maedler is a central figure of an academic dynasty. Using Photoshop simulations (read here), she discovered a cure for diabetes via inhibition of the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1-beta (IL-1β), which was then confirmed as a definite cure for diabetes in clinical trials led by her own Swiss Doktorvater Marc Donath, then professor at University of Zürich, now in Basel. Over 15 years later, the Maedler-Donath cure was proven as utterly ineffective against hypoglycaemia and diabetes by same Donath, in another clinical trial. Because of her Photoshop creativity with discovering diabetes cures and ensuing retractions, Donath’s past PhD student Maedler was asked by the German Research Council DFG to surrender her prestigious Heisenberg professorship, while the German Diabetes Society (DDG) revoked her Ferdinand Bertram Prize from 2011 (read here). Since 2017, her PhD thesis is again under investigation of University of Zürich.
That diabetes research was also what made the career of Maedler’s own PhD student, Amin Ardestani, presently junior research group leader at the University of Bremen. His thesis received an award from the local Rotary Club, of course also Ardestani got a prize from DDG, which he also saw revoked for engaging into same activities as his Doktormutter. Still, he is still receiving awards, including from Elsevier. I will present below some data irregularities and unacknowledged textual reuse from Ardestani’s 2013 PhD thesis, which was supervised by Maedler.
Continue reading “The Kathrin Maedler Dynasty”
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 University of Iceland in Reykjavik previously published an external investigation report into the first ever plastic trachea transplant, performed by Paolo Macchiarini at the hospital of Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm, Sweden. The patient was Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene, PhD student at University of Iceland, and the Icelandic surgeon who treated Beyene and then delegated him to Macchiarini for that deadly treatment was Tomas Gudbjartsson, professor of surgery at same university (see my report here). One year after the operation, when Beyene already started to suffer from the plastic trachea which eventually killed him, Gudbjartsson organised a conference on regenerative medicine in Reykjavik, featuring Macchiarini as guest of honour and Beyene as a kind of trophy.
The University now announces to investigate the circumstances of that conference, for which it apologises, and to host on June 1st 2018 a new one, on research ethics. Gudbjartsson will not suffer any disciplinary consequences, because he was said to have expressed sufficient level of protest against the attempts by Macchiarini and his acolyte Philipp Jungebluth to twist the patient abuse into a success story which they published in The Lancet, Jungebluth et al, 2011. A paper which University of Iceland now describes as “objectionable”. Continue reading “University of Iceland: no formal legal sanctions against Macchiarini partner Gudbjartsson”