Unpublished Macchiarini manuscript confirms 5 forgotten trachea transplant patients, Jungebluth’s surgery practice in Italy

Unpublished Macchiarini manuscript confirms 5 forgotten trachea transplant patients, Jungebluth’s surgery practice in Italy

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 was directly involved in the transplant surgeries of these patients, despite his most probably not having a permit to practice medicine in Italy.  This makes Jungebluth co-responsible for up to 13 trachea transplants, 10 of them lethal. 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The first author of this lost and now found unpublished paper is Johannes Haag, Macchiarini’s other acolyte and former MD student from Hannover Medical School (MHH) in Germany.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).

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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.

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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”

Two EMBO corrections for the martyred saint Maria Pia Cosma

Two EMBO corrections for the martyred saint Maria Pia Cosma

The cell biologist Maria Pia Cosma, top-funded and prize-winning professor in Barcelona, is either an indestructible zombie scientist or a martyred saint. Her name means in Italian Mary the Pious, so it is probably the latter. So the following post is written in the style of a canonical satire.

Holy Mary Pia was accused by evil tongues on PubPeer of research misconduct in several of her publications. Philistines pointed crooked fingers and cast stones at duplicated western blot bands in papers published by St. Maria Pia in exalted scriptures like Cell. The accusers, envious of such impact factors, wished those gospels of scientific truth crucified on the cross of retraction and demanded for Our Lady of Barcelona to be judged and investigated. Yet Lord took mercy upon the tortured saint and sent His angels to defend her.

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The martyr of research integrity, St. Maria Pia (right, standing) receives a sign for “Beatified”. Source: Cosma lab, under fair use

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Claudia’s trachea

Claudia’s trachea
This is the English original of my story for Hipertextual, first published in Spanish on 27.10.2016.

What did we learn from the trachea transplant scandal around the miracle surgeon and stem cell pioneer Paolo Macchiarini, who used to conduct his human experiments in Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden and Russia? That despite the stem cell fairy magic, all his plastic trachea transplants proved deadly for his patients, except of one or two cases where the transplant was removed early enough. These patients were not saved by Macchiarini though: he quickly lost interest in his human Guinea pigs, especially when his miracle cures started to fail. One such patient, a young woman from Turkey, lost several organs in the process, and was only saved so far due to excellent medical care and organ transplants. Macchiarini meanwhile was busy experimenting on humans in Russia, the saddest case was that of another young woman who was tricked into agreeing to an allegedly life-improving plastic trachea, which caused her death soon after.

But it was not only about the lethal plastic, and there were more young women (and some men) who were killed or mutilated by Macchiarini’s trachea transplants, while other options were available to save their lives and health. What often remains unspoken: the technology which Macchiarini used before, that of a dead donor trachea stripped of cells and allegedly reconstituted with stem cells, failed as well. Without exception, but for some reason the method is still being presented as ground-breaking success and in fact there are currently clinical trials happening in UK and soon in the whole EU. These are led by none other than by Macchiarini’s formerly closest ally, the British surgeon Martin Birchall. What the two of them did to their very first patient whom they operated in 2008 at the Hospital Clinic Barcelona, is nothing less but a bankruptcy of basic medical ethics which almost costed that young woman her life. Other Spanish doctors have been rescuing her life ever since, while Macchiarini and Birchall were busy making their fame and careers by parading this utterly failed transplant of a rotting trachea as an epic success story.

The untold story of Claudia Castillo and her trachea transplant features these key points:

  • Patient was neglected by Macchiarini and his Barcelona colleagues prior and after the transplant operation, while her condition deteriorated
  • Standard therapies were not considered or rejected in favour of a totally untested, scientifically unfounded and unrealistic method
  • “Informed constent” of the patient was obtained through deliberate misinformation
  • The transplant was prepared in a British veterinary lab using animal products, in total disregard for elementary safety measures in human medicine. The responsible British authorities were misinformed, the incident soon covered up and all research documentation vanished.

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Manel Esteller, the Schrödinger cat of Barcelona

Manel Esteller, the Schrödinger cat of Barcelona
This text was first published on September 30th as Spanish translation on Hipertextual.

The Spanish Institut d’Investigació Biomèdica de Bellvitge (IDIBELL) in Barcelona has discovered a new application of the famous Schrödinger uncertainty theory, by extending quantum mechanics from single atoms to entire scientific publications and its authors. The traditional Schrödinger cat inside a box with a poison-releasing radioactivity detector can be simultaneously dead and alive, and you never know which until you open the box. According to IDIBELL, a senior scientific research group leader can be also simultaneously 100% responsible and utterly not responsible for any given scientific publication of his, depending on the nature of observation. Such a “Schrödinger cat”-scientist is Manel Esteller, cancer researcher and director of strategic projects at IDIBELL. On the one side Esteller is being hailed and awarded with highest prizes for his publications on cancer genetics (most recently the Gold Medal of Honour by the Catalan Parliament), from the other side he is being declared as entirely not responsible for these same research papers, as soon as any evidence for data manipulations in them surfaces. Esteller’s quantum state of responsibility for his own research oscillates between yes and no depending on whether you open his IDIBELL box in order to give him a prize or to report suspected research misconduct.

This is how the Barcelona Theory of Quantum Irresponsibility developed.

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The newly found innocence of Paolo Macchiarini

The newly found innocence of Paolo Macchiarini

The tide is turning for the fallen star surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, who transplanted numerous patients with lethal tracheas made out of dead donor organs or plastic and sprinkled with cells from the bone marrow. Just when Macchiarini started to became the synonym for everything what is bad and evil in regenerative medicine, after two damning investigations by his former employers Karolinska Institutet (KI) and the Karolinska University Hospital, things began to change for the better.

In a surprising decision, the Italian court in Florence cleared the former head surgeon of Careggi Hospital of all accusations of fraud (Macchiarini was accused of extortion, namely of huge sums from patient families while offering to save the terminally ill). This court decision prompted the Tuscan governor Enrico Rossi to immediately lament the loss of a “great surgeon”, who would have done so much good if he only remained in Florence, under proper control. Back in 2010, this politician’s exalting letter of recommendation helped Macchiarini to get the KI professorship despite the many negative references from his medical colleagues.

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