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Regenerative medicine researcher accused of misconduct

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A surgeon previously operating at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm has performed unauthorised operations and is suspected for having connections to a company that manufactures artificial tracheas. He is accused of having falisfied data and publishing wrongful information in his papers, as well as having false information in his resumé.

Swedish Television have produced a documentary describing Paolo Macchiarini’s research and transplantations, including the world’s first synthetic organ transplant in 2011 at Karolinska Hospital, involving fashioning a trachea out of plastic and then coating it with a patient’s own stem cells. He became a visiting professor at the institute in 2010. He has after that performed two more operations at Karolinska and he has also operated on patients in Russia. However, the operations have not been successful (patients have died, suffered and the artifical tracheas have not integrated with the patients own tissue) and he hs been critized of persuading patients to do it, performing the surgery without proper clinical trials in animals first and performing operations while knowing that the implant is not in a good condition.

This fall, allegations of research misconduct against Macchiarini were dismissed. The Karolinska University issued its final ruling, concluding that there was “nothing to support suspicions of scientific misconduct”. Macchiarini’s work on the transplantation of tissue-engineered tracheas was published in The Lancetin 2011. This article, and several further research and review papers, were the targets of criticism by some of Macchiarini’s former colleagues. But Karolinska judged that he was emphatically “not guilty”. This result was a remarkable turn around. In May, an investigation by Bengt Gerdin, a professor emeritus from Uppsala University, had concluded that Macchiarini was “guilty of scientific misconduct”.

Karolinska Institutet and the Karolinska University Hospital have maintained that the advanced transplantations of artifical tracheas on three patients in Sweden were life saving healthcare. The method is controversial since artificial tracheas of plastic does not seem to mend/heal with the body. At the same time, Macchiarini was also operating at the Kuban State University Hospital (KSU) in Russia where three patients, not mortally bad (as he claimed the patient’s at Karolinska were), were ging to get the trachea transplant. One of them died and the other patient luckily, were able to get his implant removed. Karolinska howeverm claims that the did not know about these operations and the circumstances around them until now, and they distance themselves from these operations.

Karolinska Institutet also states that there have never existed any form of formalised collaboratiion between them and KSU, neither on unit, institution or university level and that they do not allow unfaithful sidelines.

Based on the findings from the SVT Documentary Karolinska Institutet will now revise its decision.