Two researchers guilty of misconduct, says university investigation

Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson

A Swedish university has concluded that two professors studying tissue engineering are guilty of misconduct in two published papers, including a 2012 study in The Lancet.

The two researchers are  Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson and Michael Olausson, both based at the University of Gothenburg. The university investigation — launched after several of Holgersson’s papers were questioned on PubPeer — has concluded that the researchers didn’t follow proper ethical procedures in the two papers.

Here’s a statement from a university spokesperson:

‘The Council for matters concerning investigation of suspected misconduct in research, research in the arts or development work at the University of Gothenburg’ has found that Suchitra Sumitran Holgersson and Michael Olausson have failed to comply with the provisions concerning the obtaining of permits from the relevant authorities and have provided misleading information in the articles and in statements to the Council concerning the documentation of the ethical status of the study, organ donations and permission from Läkemedelsverket (the Swedish Medical Products Agency). The Council concludes that there is reason to believe that scientific misconduct has occurred in two matters under paragraph 3e and 3f in the procedure for matters concerning suspected misconduct in research at the University of Gothenburg. (Link:Procedure for matters concerning suspected misconduct in research, research in the arts or development work). Set against this background Vice-Chancellor Pam Fredman has decided, on March 24 2017, that misconduct in research has occurred.

Here are the two affected papers:

The Lancet paper reported to have transplanted a vein graft using donor tissue seeded with a patient’s own stem cells. (Note: This procedure may sound familiar — another investigator, Paolo Macchiarini, has been under fire after claiming success from a similar procedure transplanting trachea seeded with autologous cells. Both Sumitran-Holgersson and Macchiarini were once based at the Karolinska Institute, which also investigated Sumitran-Holgersson before she moved to Gothenburg.)

On PubPeer, commenters have questioned whether one figure in The Lancet paper is an enlarged version of one section of another figure in the same paper. An author has responded to the thread.

Last year, Sumitran-Holgersson lost a paper after she asked the journal to swap out an image that was duplicated by mistake. Instead of issuing a correction, however, the journal opted to pull the paper entirely.

Hat tip: Göteborgs-Posten

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3 thoughts on “Two researchers guilty of misconduct, says university investigation”

  1. Small correction: Michael Olausson is not a biologist, but a transplant surgeon. He has collaborated with Sumitran-Holgersson, who is a microbiologist, in the articles, where she has been responsible for the laboratory part, and he for the surgical procedures and patient contacts.

  2. He is a transplantation surgeon. She is a cell biologist/immunologist with no medical background. She produced the “stem cells” that supposedly colonized the decellularized veins or trachea.

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