The AP reports that one Gary Dudek of Pennsylvania is facing criminal charges for allegedly stealing more than $350,000 worth of human skin from a Massachusetts regenerative medicine company that was his former employer. Philly.com has identified the firm as Organogenesis and reported that Dudek was a sales rep there. Dudek’s attorney, Eugene Tinari told a TV station that the criminal charges are “draconian”.
Dudek reportedly had authority to order skin grafts for Mercy Philadelphia Hospital for Organogenesis. There is no indication that Organogenesis has done anything wrong. Angelyn Lowe, director of corporate communications at Organogenesis, was quoted by Philly.com that “We’re known as the most ethical company in the business.”
Dudek allegedly ordered more than 200 skin grafts for Organogenesis that apparently have gone missing.
It is unclear what he might have done with the skin grafts and what his motive might have been, although a local CBS News broadcast suggested one possible motive could have simply been for commissions earned on each graft. It is also at least theoretically possible the samples, sourced from cadavers, could have been sold.
What a creepy story, huh?
Dudek is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on June 10.
While the facts of this case remain unclear and Dudek could still be proven innocent of these charges or could have discarded the skin grafts, this story raises key broader issues that should be discussed in more depth.
How many other kinds of human samples such as stem cells, adipose, blood and others go missing each year? Are some of them being sold and used in for-profit clinics?
Some time ago I wrote about the black market in stem cells and included a cartoon (posted again at left). Apparently cells can live in the human body for weeks after death and can yield so-called zombie stem cells.
The transport of human tissues and cells across state lines and international borders is on the rise. Some folks believe this kind of thing is illegal smuggling.
So is there a black market in human tissue and cell samples in the US? There is strong evidence to say that there is such a market and it is growing even if this skin case is not ultimately linked to such doings.