Monday, 15 October 2018

Harvard Calls for Retraction of Dozens


Harvard involves Retraction of Dozens of Studies by Noted
Cardiac Researcher

A prominent heart researcher formerly at Harvard school of medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston fabricated or falsified data in 31 published studies that ought to be retracted, officials at the institutions have concluded.

The scientist, Dr. Piero Anversa produced research suggesting that damaged cardiac muscle
could be regenerated with stem cells, a type of cell that can transform itself into a variety of
other cells.

Although other laboratories could not reproduce his findings, the work led to the formation
of start-up companies to develop new treatments for heart attacks and stroke, and inspired
a clinical test funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“A couple of papers may be alarming, but 31 additional papers in question are almost
unheard-of,” said Benoit Bruneau, associate director of cardiovascular research at the
Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco. “It may be a lab’s the almost entire body of labor, and thus
almost a whole field of research put into question.”

Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital began their review of Dr.
Anversa’s publications in January 2013. In April 2017, Brigham and Women’s Hospital agreed
to pay $10 million to the federal to settle accusations that Dr. Anversa
submitted fraudulent data to get research funding.

Officials at Harvard declined to discuss why it took goodbye to require action on Dr.
Anversa’s published work. Dr. Anversa could not be reached for comment.

The cardiac researcher rocketed to fame in 2001 with a flashy paper claiming that, contrary
to scientific consensus, heart muscle could be regenerated. If true, the research would have
had enormous significance for patients worldwide.

His method was to require stem cells from bone marrow and inject them into the guts. As if
by magic, he reported, the stem cells turned into heart cells and repaired the damage. The first
studies were conducted in mice, but the finding electrified researchers.

Companies were formed, including one headed by Dr. Anversa, based on the claim that by
injecting stem cells they might heal hearts that were damaged by memory attacks.

Yet researchers failed to duplicate the work. In one paper, Dr. Irving Weissman, co-director
of Stanford University’s Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, and his
colleagues concluded that bone marrow cells injected within the heart remain bone marrow

Another paper, by Dr. Charles Murry of the University of Washington in Seattle and his
colleagues came to an equivalent conclusion and said the failures to duplicate Dr. Anversa’s
work “raise a cautionary note.”
But Dr. Anversa held firm. In effect, his response was “you guys don’t skills to try to to it,”
said Dr. Bruneau.

“Many labs said, ‘O.K., game on. We will keep trying to do it,’” he added. But the list of
failures grew.

Dr. Anversa claimed to possess discovered that bone marrow cells aren't needed to repair
heart muscle. The heart has its own stem cells, he reported, which may be removed,
multiplied in a petri dish, and injected back into the heart to replace and repair damaged

No one else could get those experiments to figure, either, said Jeffery D. Molkentin, a
professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute.
Dr. Molkentin found how to label and trace the lineage of stem cells as they morphed into
other cells. That let him investigate whether any heart cells were derived from these stems

The answer was no, and in 2014 he published a paper that should have put to rest all claims
that stem cells could become mature working heart cells and repopulate the guts.
A study published within the journal Circulation by Dr. Anversa was retracted in 2014 after coauthors
wrote to the journal saying the info within the paper wasn't data that they had generated.
Dr. Anversa left Harvard and Brigham and Women’s in 2015.

Despite the troubling questions that had been raised about the somatic cell work, the National
Heart, Lung and Blood Institute began a clinical trial of injected stem cells for patients with
heart failure.

The study is still enrolling patients. And there are still companies selling stem cell therapy
for damaged hearts.

In the past few years, however, skeptical researchers moved on to other prospects for heart
treatment. “The field has backed off tons,” Dr. Molkentin said.

Some scientists wondered how a questionable line of research persisted for therefore long. Maybe,
Dr. Molkentin said, experts were just too timid to take a stand.

But what about those companies selling somatic cell treatments for the heart?
“People wanted to believe,” he said.

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