The Perennial Northern Blot of Lopez-Otin

The Perennial Northern Blot of Lopez-Otin

On the Iberian peninsula, there seems to be a tradition to give well-connected scientists suspected (or even convinced) of data fudging an award. In Spain, Carlos López-Otín, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oviedo, was given a Mentoring Award from the elite journal Nature, on recommendation from Spanish academia and despite evidence of data irregularities in his papers. This prompted my readers, in particular the famous pseudonymous data integrity sleuth Clare Francis, to comment on on PubPeer and on my site (as “Zebedee”) with additional evidence, which made Lopez-Otin’s scientific credibility look progressively worse and worse, with each new post.

Eventually, an image of a Northern blot (showing expression of mRNAs which code for proteins) was found to appear recurrently across several papers from that Oviedo lab, where the authors pretended it was a newly produced analysis. In reality, it was a “library” loading control reused so the authors could re-run same RNA gel of human tissue lysates over the years and never check ever again what they have actually loaded on their gels. Eventually Lopez-Otin et al even stopped caring what order of samples that original loading control had.

Clare Francis was soon joined on his quest for the Perennial Northern Blot of Oviedo by Elisabeth Bik, famous microbiology blogger and image duplication detective, and my regular contributor (also pseudonymous) Smut Clyde, who now presents you the findings of no less than 23 appearances of that same northern blot in 23 publications from Lopez-Otin’s lab in the guest post below. It is just as convincing as if the Spanish actor Antonio Banderas appeared in 23 different films still dressed in same costume from his 1995 hit Desperado, carrying same guitar case. Incidentally, also Lopez-Otin’s Perennial Northern Blot made its first appearance at around that year.
Continue reading “The Perennial Northern Blot of Lopez-Otin”

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”

Nature rewards data manipulation with a Mentoring Award

Nature rewards data manipulation with a Mentoring Award

In Spain, there seems to be a tradition of reacting to emerging evidence of data manipulation with handing out prestigious awards to authors of these papers. This is how we were all taught that all the PubPeer evidence matters nothing whatsoever, as Pura Munoz-Canoves, Maria Pia Cosma and Manel Esteller were celebrated with prizes and grants for their research achievements (read here , here and here).  Now there is a new popular academic hero in Spain, Carlos López-Otín, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oviedo, and EMBO member. Lopez-Otin was now awarded a 2017 Mentoring Award,  presented to him by Sir Philip Campbell, on behalf of his journal Nature, which Editor-in-Chief Sir Philip has been for the last 22 years.

The journal Nature remains the highest authority in science, this Mentoring Award is Sir Philip’s parting present to the Nature-reading scientific community, as he is being promoted inside Springer Nature’s publishing hierarchy. It is in this way a statement of what Nature and its publisher think of research integrity. Lopez-Otin’s evidence record on PubPeer is telling enough, however most of the evidence of digitally manipulated gel images there was posted around 2-3 months ago, by the pseudonymous Claire Francis. Maybe the evidence appeared too late, and the award decision couldn’t be stopped anymore. Which would explain why Nature deleted their own tweet announcing the mentorship awards after I replied to it with PubPeer evidence on Lopez-Otin’s papers. According to another Nature website, which was for some reason also deleted, the closing date for nominations was Monday 31 July 2017. So I share some examples below, all are from papers where Lopez-Otin is last and corresponding author.

Continue reading “Nature rewards data manipulation with a Mentoring Award”

Carol Prives, innocent victim of Susana Gonzalez’ data manipulations?

Carol Prives, innocent victim of Susana Gonzalez’ data manipulations?

Recent news brought us yet another retraction of the Spanish zombie scientist Susana Gonzalez, formerly famous for her impactful ERC-funded research into stem cells and ageing. It is her fifth retraction (others here), and meanwhile Gonzalez is not even a zombie scientist anymore. She has no research group in her new Madrid institute, noone in Spain wants to work in the same building with her, in fact though she is still formally employed with the Spanish Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), it seems she stopped coming to work long ago, being on an endless sick leave. Even the European Research Council (ERC), usually most accommodating with research misconduct of their elite grant recipients, didn’t know what to do with Gonzalez suspended €2Mn grant and eventually terminated it.

The recent Gonzalez retraction at the  Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) is interesting in two aspects. First, Retraction Watch previously chastised the journal in a headline for allegedly refusing to investigate evidence of data manipulations in papers older than 6 years (read here). No reference is made to that “smear” accusation in the current Retraction Watch article on Gonzalez retraction.  But the second aspect is really much more intriguing. The retracted MCB paper, from Gonzalez period as postdoc at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York, was coauthored by the US researcher Carol Prives, professor at the Columbia University in New York, and specialist for the cell cycle control protein p53: Continue reading “Carol Prives, innocent victim of Susana Gonzalez’ data manipulations?”

Unpublished Macchiarini manuscript confirms 5 forgotten trachea transplant patients

Unpublished Macchiarini manuscript confirms 5 forgotten trachea transplant patients

7.09.2017 This article was slapped with an injunction by Berlin court (here), on behalf of Jungebluth. Sentences forbidden by injunction are replaced to show the legal truth. 

I have been forwarded a manuscript by the scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, which was originally intended to present in detail all of his known 9 cadaveric trachea recipients (only 4 are recorded officially). The compilation follows exactly all the patients who are already listed on my site, with the small difference that the paper (allegedly rejected at Nature Communications) presents their clinical evolutions quite differently from reality. One of these now fully confirmed victims of Macchiarini’s research was his second patient from Barcelona, whom Macchiarini transplanted in secret; five were operated in Italy (including Keziah Shorten and the Czech patient MK). The manuscript also confirms that Macchiarini’s acolyte Philipp Jungebluth [is an angel of innocence and never did anything bad in his life. Every patient ever treated by him is in fact eternally grateful]. The German doctor is currently suing me in court for alleged libel, insisting that all these patient deaths and his proven research misconduct in Sweden would never ever disqualify him from developing trachea transplants and training as thorax surgeon at the University Clinic Heidelberg, where he however doesn’t work anymore.

The first author of this lost and now found unpublished paper is Johannes Haag, Macchiarini’s other acolyte and former MD student from Hannover Medical School (MHH) in Germany. Haag is apparently still employed at the Thoraxklinik at the University of Heidelberg, where Jungebluth used to be. The manuscript, which was supposed to be Haag’s big paper, was written to deal with the fact that too many of Macchiarini’s cadaveric trachea recipients died or developed very severe complications. To this end, the team hatched an idea to do “reverse translational experiments“, where rat experiments would follow those on 9 humans, prove that the cadaveric trachea technology works in principle and it was the human patients who were making problems. This notion was to be supported also by their earlier pig study Go et al, Biomaterials 2010, where Macchiarini and Jungebluth claim, without a shred of evidence, that the large animal testing was performed before the first patient, Claudia Castillo, received a cadaveric trachea in 2008 (details here, here and here). Update 7.09.2017: Go et al  2010 paper was criticised on PubPeer for its heavy scientific and technical deficits.

Continue reading “Unpublished Macchiarini manuscript confirms 5 forgotten trachea transplant patients”

Macchiarini’s trachea transplant patients: the full list

Macchiarini’s trachea transplant patients: the full list

This article lists all known (including those not officially declared) patients of the scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, who received from him a cadaveric or plastic trachea. All these grafts were “regenerated” with bone marrow and epithelial cells, in some cases a bioreactor was used to incubate cells on the trachea carcass, in some cases a “bionic” method was applied,  where cells were brought straight into the open patient, together with growth factors like EPO. Not all patients are named in my list, though names of all are available, certainly at the hospitals where they were treated. One of my sources is a patients list from the Careggi Hospital in Florence, Italy, which the Corriere Fiorentino journalist Alessio Gaggioli sent me.  Some of the patients I already described in an earlier article.

This now is a full list, and it will be updated whenever I receive any new evidence. All Macchiarini trachea transplant patients are listed in the chronological order of their operation. The 2003 operated patient (story here), who received from Macchiarini (together with Heike and Thorsten Walles) a small “regenerated” tracheal patch of pig intestine, is not included here, as it was not a trachea transplant as such. There is a total of 17 patients, at least 11 are dead, the rest, if alive, were left mutilated.

Continue reading “Macchiarini’s trachea transplant patients: the full list”

Three retractions and lost court case for zombie Susana Gonzalez

Three retractions and lost court case for zombie Susana Gonzalez

The Spanish zombie scientist Susana González, former star of regenerative medicine and ageing research, now retracts two papers in Nature Communications, after she only recently retracted a paper in Cell Cycle. The responsibility for the absence of original data and data manipulations is with her. She also recently lost her court case against her sacking with the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC) in Madrid, though this may go into the next court instance.  Her ERC research grant of €2 Million remains suspended. I previously reported about this and Gonzalez’s data integrity issues as well as her sacking from CNIC, and later on about her new job with Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CBMSO), also in Madrid. It seems at the present stage, Gonzalez is out on her ear of doing research, but certainly not out of being employed in academic research in Spain.  Continue reading “Three retractions and lost court case for zombie Susana Gonzalez”