Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

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“It’s been three tough years:” Macchiarini whistleblower cleared of previous charges

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Karl-Henrik Grinnemo

Karl-Henrik Grinnemo was worried. The doctor and clinical researcher at the Karolinska Institute was working with a high-profile surgeon who was performing a potentially life-saving procedure on patients, but Grinnemo saw that the patients weren’t doing very well. So in 2013, Grinnemo and three other doctors raised concerns about the work of Paolo Macchiarini. The surgeon initially fought back, and accused Grinnemo of misconduct. KI sided with the star surgeon, and found Grinnemo guilty of “carelessness” in a grant application to the Swedish Research Council, including plagiarism. Readers should by now know how the story ends – Macchiarini’s work has since been largely discredited. Recently, to clear his name, Grinnemo asked authorities to take a second look at his case – and he has been exonerated. We talked to him about the last few tumultuous years. 

Retraction Watch: How does the story begin?

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Written by Alison McCook

March 24th, 2017 at 11:30 am

Macchiarini blames Karolinska for losing data as he retracts 2014 paper

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Ask and ye shall receive: A journal has retracted a 2014 paper by Paolo Macchiarini, upon request from the Karolinska Institutet (KI).

The latest news is only one step in a long-running saga about former star surgeon Macchiarini, who was dismissed from KI last year. To read more, check out our timeline.

KI announced it was asking the journal to pull the paper late last year, after concluding that four authors — including Macchiarini — were guilty of scientific misconduct. The paper had already been flagged by the journal with an expression of concern, noting the data presented in the paper may not be “fully representative” of the experiments.

Today, the journal issued a retraction notice, saying the authors wanted to retract the paper. All of the authors who could be reached have agreed to the retraction, including Macchiarini.

Here’s more from the notice:

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Karolinska requests retraction of 2014 Macchiarini paper

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Paolo Macchiarini

It has been a tough couple of years for surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, once lauded for pioneering a groundbreaking procedure to transplant tracheas.

After a series of documentaries prompted his former employer, Karolinska Institutet (KI), to reopen a misconduct investigation against him, KI has today released one verdict regarding a 2014 Nature Communications paper: guilty.

KI said it is contacting the journal to request a retraction of the paper, which has already been flagged with an expression of concern.

Here’s more from a release from the institution: Read the rest of this entry »

Posts you may have missed: Macchiarini logs EoC, 4 retractions for cardiovascular researcher

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We get email glitches from time to time, and some alerts don’t go out to readers. In cased you missed them, here are two posts from this week that didn’t make it into your inbox:

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Written by Alison McCook

October 14th, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Macchiarini paper in Nature journal earns expression of concern for data questions

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nature-communications-228x300Nature Communications has issued an expression of concern for a 2014 paper by beleaguered surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, citing concerns over whether the paper accurately reports the experiments that were carried out.

According to the notice, Macchiarini, a former rising star in the field of transplant medicine, agrees with the expression of concern. Three of his 22 co-authors have objected.

Experimental orthotopic transplantation of a tissue-engineered oesophagus in rats” describes transplanting an esophagus into rats that was seeded with their own stem cells, and notes that all animals survived the study period (14 days), and gained more weight than rats given a placebo operation. It’s a topic Macchiarini has made famous, as the first surgeon to perform a similar procedure with a human tracheal transplant. But he’s faced charges of misconduct in the last few years, resulting in his dismissal from Karolinska Institutet (KI).

Here’s the text of the notice, scheduled to go live at 10 a.m. UK time today: Read the rest of this entry »

Meet the filmmakers who cracked open the case against star surgeon Macchiarini

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svtlogo-black_v2Paolo Macchiarini — once a world-renowned surgeon for creating tracheas from cadavers and patients’ own stem cells – has been dogged for years by accusations of misconduct. Officials at his institution, Karolinska Institute, initially cleared him of many charges, but that all changed earlier this year, when Swedish Television (SVT) aired a series of documentaries about Macchiarini and his work. The series alleged, in part, that he operated on patients in Russia whose conditions were not life-threatening enough to warrant such a risky procedure. Such serious accusations caused a media storm, and prompted officials to take a second look at Macchiarini’s work. KI dismissed Macchiarini, and many others have resigned, including KI’s vice chancellor. Recently, two new reports critiqued KI’s role in the case, and Sweden’s Central Ethical Review Board found Macchiarini guilty of misconduct in a 2014 paper. We spoke with SVT producers Bosse Lindquist and Johannes Hallbom via email about the fallout from their series.

Retraction Watch: Your documentary series has caused quite a storm: A series of resignations and renewed investigations have followed. Are you surprised by the reaction? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

September 12th, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Weekend reads: Macchiarini guilty of misconduct; controversial PACE data to be released; gender bias at conferences

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booksThis week at Retraction Watch featured the return of a notorious fraudster, and plagiarism of plagiarism. Here’s what was happening elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 10th, 2016 at 9:37 am

Posted in weekend reads

Macchiarini did not obtain necessary ethics approvals, says Swedish Research Council

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lancetSurgeon Paolo Macchiarini did not apply for the necessary ethics approval to perform the pioneering transplants he’s known for, according to the Swedish Research Council.

Chief Legal Counsel Anna Hörnlund, who wrote a letter in this week’s The Lancet, says Macchiarini’s work needed to obtain ethical approval from one of six regional ethical review boards, as required by Swedish law — and neither Macchiarini nor his former employer, Karolinska Institutet, did so:

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Written by Alison McCook

May 2nd, 2016 at 11:30 am

Lancet issues expression of concern for 2011 Macchiarini paper

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Paolo Macchiarini

Paolo Macchiarini

The Lancet has tagged an expression of concern onto a seminal 2011 paper by Paolo Macchiarini, the Italian surgeon whose work and conduct outside the operating room has earned months of  heavy criticism that recently culminated in his dismissal from the Karolinska Institutet.

Tracheobronchial transplantation with a stem-cell-seeded bioartificial nanocomposite: a proof-of-concept study,” which described the first case of a transplant using an artificial trachea seeded with the patient’s own stem cells, now bears an expression of concern from The Lancet editors, citing ongoing investigations. The journal has also removed three more authors from the paper, upon their request.

The expression of concern essentially presents the timeline of the controversy that led the journal to make this move:

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Macchiarini dismissed from Karolinska

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Paolo Macchiarini

Paolo Macchiarini

The Karolinska Institutet has dismissed former rising star surgeon Paolo Macchiarini from his post, effective immediately.

A KI news release, dated today, states:

The Staff Disciplinary Board at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to relieve Paolo Macchiarini of his duties as a researcher at KI. He is to be informed immediately that his contract has been rescinded.

For a refresher on the story, check out our constantly updating timeline. As a brief recap: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

March 23rd, 2016 at 7:35 am