Monday, 29 October 2018

He Promised to Restore Damaged Hearts.

He Promised to revive Damaged Hearts
He Promised to revive Damaged Hearts. Harvard Says His Lab Fabricated Research.

For Dr. Piero Anversa, the autumn from scientific grace has been long, and therefore the landing hard.

Researchers worldwide once hailed his research as revolutionary, promising the seemingly impossible: how to grow new heart cells to exchange those lost in heart attacks and coronary failure, leading killers within us.

But Harvard school of medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, his former employers, this month accused Dr. Anversa and his laboratory of in-depth scientific malpractice.

More than 30 research studies produced over quite a decade contain falsified or fabricated data, officials concluded, and will be retracted.

Last the year the hospital paid a $10 million settlement to the federal after the Department of Justice alleged that Dr. Anversa and two members of his team were liable for fraudulently obtaining research funding from the National Institutes of Health.

“The a number of papers is extraordinary,” said Dr. Jeffrey Flier, until 2016 the dean of Harvard school of medicine. “I can’t recall another case like this.”

Dr. Anversa’s story has laid bare a number of the hazards of recent medical research: the temptation to embrace a promising new theory, the reluctance to heed contrary
evidence and therefore the institutional barriers to promptly stopping malfeasance.

Even after three independent researchers were unable to breed his findings in 2004, Harvard hired him in 2007 and his lab continued to churn out studies upholding his theory.

“Science at this level is sort of a battleship, and it’s really hard to show it around,” said Dr. Jonathan Moreno, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

“People get emotionally invested, financially invested, professionally invested.”

Dr. Anversa, 80, now lives in his son’s elegant apartment on the Upperside.

It has high ceilings, Oriental rugs, and a marble fireplace, but little evidence of life, he once led at the forefront of science, but a framed 2001 front-page article within the NY Times about his work.

He is slightly stooped and walks gingerly — hip trouble, he said. the strain has made sleep difficult, but he adheres to a routine: in bed by 9 p.m., up before dawn.

He spends most days writing grant proposals that he hopes to submit should he ever land another job.

He insists that he did nothing wrong, that his stunning results are real, which he was betrayed by a rogue colleague who altered data within the paper after paper.

On a recent afternoon, he sat on the sofa, pecking on his laptop with two fingers, calling up emails from people that had supported him.

“I am an 80-year-old man who has worked all his life in an effort to possess an impression on coronary failure,” Dr. Anversa said, his voice rising. “Now I'm isolated.”

His maybe a particularly acrid cautionary tale of scientific hubris.

“It’s quite been the longest-running version of ‘Mean Girls’,” said Dr. Richard T. Lee, a professor of somatic cell and regenerative biology at Harvard.

“Except most of the characters were adult men.”

“It was like he grew the guts back”

At a gathering of the American Heart Association in 2000, Dr. Anversa, then a professor at NY Medical College in Valhalla strode to the stage and delivered a dramatic announcement: In mice, bone marrow contained stem cells that would be wont to regenerate cardiac muscle.

He was suggesting that a basic tenet of cardiology — that the human heart can't be regenerated — was wrong. If he was correct, he had discovered hope for many heart patients.

The presentation was replete with colorful slides of small and underdeveloped cells — new cardiac muscle cells maturing, he said.

“It was like he grew the guts back,” recalled Dr. Charles Murry, director of the Institute for somatic cell and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The hypothesis, widely held at the time, was that the body had stem cells — immature primitive cells — that within the right environment could become the other cells within the body.

Put a somatic cell into the liver, scientists hoped, and it might become a liver cell.

Put a somatic cell into the guts, Dr. Anversa said, and it really could become a heart cell.

He and his colleagues published the research in 2001 in Nature.

“Unsurprisingly, companies started shooting up and taking bone marrow cells and injecting them into peoples’ hearts,” Dr. Murry said.

“The thing goes viral worldwide. it had been freaking unbelievable.”

Dr. Anversa’s group later reported something even more astounding. Bone marrow was known to possess stem cells that will grow into blood cells.

But nobody ever thought the guts had stem cells. Yet he reported that it did which those heart stem cells are often removed, grown in Petri dishes, and injected back to the guts to regenerate the muscle after an attack.

The virtuoso defense From the very beginning, there have been scientists who doubted Dr. Anversa’s claims.

He had not been the primary to wonder if stem cells from bone marrow might be transformed into heart cells.

Dr. Murry and Loren Field, a professor of drugs at Indiana University School of drugs had tried the experiment within the late 1990s.

They saw no new heart cells and moved on, never publishing those data.

They sat together within the audience when Dr. Anversa presented his findings in 2000. Dr. Murry turned to Dr. Field and asked, “How the hell did we miss this?” They returned to their labs to redo the experiment.

But again, they might not make the method yield new heart cells.

There the paper was published within the journal Nature in 2004, alongside another study by Irving Weissman, director of the Institute for somatic cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University. He, too, did not replicate Dr. Anversa’s results.

That the same year, Dr. Bernd Fleischmann, a professor of physiology at the University of Bonn, reported in Nature Medicine that he had been unable to duplicate Dr. Anversa’s results.

The Times covered the questioning of Dr. Anversa’s findings during a 2005 article, “Tracking the Uncertain Science of Growing Heart Cells.”

Other labs reported seeing a couple of heart cells generated, but nothing on the brink of what Dr. Anversa reported.

“Those incremental results kept hope alive,” Dr. Field said.

At one scientific meeting, Dr. Murry said he questioned Dr. Anversa’s findings.

On a screen, he put up a slide of heart cells from his lab and, next thereto, a slide of heart cells from Dr. Anversa’s laboratory.

Then he put up a photoshopped image of his lab’s cells.

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