Macchiarini victim’s family sues trachea makers for wrongful death

Macchiarini victim’s family sues trachea makers for wrongful death

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”

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Trachea transplanters without borders

Trachea transplanters without borders

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”

University of Iceland: no formal legal sanctions against Macchiarini partner Gudbjartsson

University of Iceland: no formal legal sanctions against Macchiarini partner Gudbjartsson

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 LancetJungebluth 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”

EU trachea transplant clinical trial TETRA “uncertain to take place”

EU trachea transplant clinical trial TETRA “uncertain to take place”

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 Birchall is 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

Continue reading “EU trachea transplant clinical trial TETRA “uncertain to take place””

Los secretos de Macchiarini en Barcelona

Los secretos de Macchiarini en Barcelona

English version below.

El 12 de junio de 2008, el cirujano torácico y entusiasta de la medicina regenerativa Paolo Macchiarini operó a su paciente Claudia Castillo en el Hospital Clínic de Barcelona. La paciente recibió parte de una tráquea de un cadáver. El injerto fue despojado de todas sus células mediante un proceso llamado descelurización, y luego fue incubado dentro del llamado biorreactor junto con muestras de células de médula ósea y epitelio de las vías respiratorias de Claudia recogidas previamente, las cuales se esperaba que regeneraran el injerto muerto y lo hicieran cobrar vida, para convertirse en parte de su organismo. Esto desencadenó lo que hasta hace poco era una historia de éxito de hasta 19 trasplantes de tráquea artificial realizados por Macchiarini, ahora considerado por algunos como uno de los mayores crímenes en la historia reciente de la medicina.

A pesar del bombo de publicitario, Claudia no recibió un trasplante de tráquea. Tan sólo una parte de su bronquio izquierdo fue reemplazada, se la retiró un segmento delimitado de 2,75 centímetros de longitud debido a una infección tuberculosa y se le reemplazó con un injerto descelurizado. El trasplante tampoco resulto un éxito. La razón por la que Macchiarini reemplazo el bronquio de Claudia con un fragmento de la tráquea de cadáver fue que Claudia no tomó correctamente los dilatadores metálicos que dilataban las vías respiratorias. Justo medio año después, su injerto reblandeció y necesitó mantenerse constantemente abierto con una cánula. Después de que Macchiarini terminara de publicitar ese supuesto éxito en dos artículos The Lancet (Macchiarini et al 2008 y Gonfiotti et al 2014), en julio de 2016 el pulmón izquierdo de Claudia fue amputado junto con el injerto podrido, con el fin de salvar su vida. Actualmente está viva pero no gracias al trasplante de tráquea de Macchiarini sino más bien a pesar de él. Si el milagroso cirujano hubiera reemplazado su tráquea en vez de uno de sus bronquios, la paciente muy probablemente habría muerto, ahogada por el colapsado del injerto, tal y como ocurrió en la mayoría de los receptores de tráqueas de cadáver que Macchiarini trató después de Claudia. De hecho, esto es exactamente lo que sucedió en 2009, cuando Macchiarini operó a otro paciente barcelonés suyo, en otro hospital de Barcelona, ​​el Institut Dexeus, y sin ni siquiera intentar obtener ningún permiso ético. En Barcelona, al menos dos pacientes más estaban esperando para recibir un trasplantae, pero Hospital Clinic denegó el permiso y se deshizo de Macchiarini. El cual, en enero de 2010, fue a Florencia, Italia, y trasplantó allí a otros 5 pacientes con injertos de tráquea de cadáver durante ese mismo año. Todos murieron. Continue reading “Los secretos de Macchiarini en Barcelona”

Expert witness Macchiarini to help Berlin court sentence criminal journalist

Expert witness Macchiarini to help Berlin court sentence criminal journalist

The stem cell pioneering surgeon Paolo Macchiarini is back in court now. No, he is not the accused this time. He is an unbiased, independent expert witness invited by his student and acolyte Philipp Jungebluth to help him sue me in Berlin. There are two court injunctions against me, one was already partially lifted, while another was upheld in full, and the main issue are Macchiarini’s trachea transplants in Italy described in an unpublished manuscript. I cannot say much more without facing a €250,000 fine or a 6 months prison term.

Macchiarini recently saw the Swedish state prosecutor drop charges against him because another misconduct-tainted Swedish trachea transplanter, Michael Olausson, served as secret expert for prosecution. At least, no journalists faced court sentencing in Sweden for exposing trachea transplant scandals. It is different in Germany, where constitutional press freedom counts little if someone doesn’t like your reporting, which is why medical scandals in Germany are so rare. The ruinous court trials Macchiarini-associates Jungebluth and Heike & Thorsten Walles imposed on me seem to have scared German media into near-complete silence on the trachea transplant affair. What about the central role of Germany, especially Macchiarini’s and Jungebluth’s university Hannover Medical School (MHH) and their recent cover up of the trachea transplants? Definitely no public interest there, even if Macchiarini’s only remaining (adjunct) professor title was bestowed by MHH. My appeal hearing for both Jungebluth injunctions is at the Berlin Kammergericht court on May 24th. It is public, feel free to come. Maybe even Prof Macchiarini pops in?

Continue reading “Expert witness Macchiarini to help Berlin court sentence criminal journalist”

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?”