Weekly reads: late Macchiarini retractions, stem cells & Lululemon

Paolo Macchiarini is one of a small group of people in the stem cell universe whose misconduct has blown up in the press. Piero Anversa, Haruko Obokata, Hwang Woo-Suk, and some operators in the unproven stem cell clinic sphere come to mind.

Macchiarini published quite a few seriously problematic papers, some of which just hung out in the literature unretracted. The journal The Lancet has done an awful job of handling flawed papers by Macchiarini.

Now they’ve finally taken some late action we’ll start with that.

Dr. Paolo Macchiarini in happier times.

Two key Paolo Macchiarini retractions by The Lancet

Lancet retracts two more papers by convicted surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, RetractionWatch. Dang, this took forever. The Lancet hurt its own reputation by stonewalling for many unnecessary years on these flawed papers. Macchiarini has been sentenced to prison, some of his patients died, and there’s clear misconduct, but The Lancet wouldn’t budge until now, many years later.

Look here for more background on Paolo Macchiarini and his saga.

ISSCR & Lululemon

ISSCR Launches Website to Inform Patients and the Public About Stem Cells, ISSCR. This is a great new ISSCR website. The style is appealing. I’ve only taken a quick first glance, but it seems very helpful in terms of content. They even have a page to report unproven stem cell marketing or adverse events across the world. It seems fairly different in style compared to their original Closer Look At Stem Cells site.

Lululemon founder Chip Wilson takes 2 popular longevity drugs — and flies to Mexico for stem cell injections — to try to stave off his muscular dystrophy, Yahoo. This is such a complicated story on multiple levels. Yahoo doesn’t do a good job on the stem cell angle. It mentions them this way, “He’s also trying some of the most popular longevity treatments: stem cells, NAD+, and rapamycin.”

Popular? Maybe, but how about mentioning risks? Lack of science? People who have been hurt going to Mexico to get stem cells?  A man died just a week or so ago after getting stem cells in Mexico. Then there was Jim Gass who ended up with a tumor on his spine after going to Mexico and other places to get stem cell injections. Of course, many people have been hurt going to clinics right here in the U.S. too.

I wish Chip the best and one one level I don’t blame him for taking risks for a severe disease. However, this kind of action (and associated press) by a famous person potentially leads to others taking big risks too including on unproven stem cells. Also, some of those everyday folks may not have millions of dollars to try on high-risk shots in the dark. On the more positive, Wilson is investing heavily in biomedical research.

Maybe we should be thankful the author of this article doesn’t say she also got stem cells and how amazing they are?

Other recommended stem cell and regenerative medicine reads

8 thoughts on “Weekly reads: late Macchiarini retractions, stem cells & Lululemon”

  1. mesenchym stem cells/exosomes

    I just find it funny that the FDA says it’s ok to take genetically engineered pig hearts and implant them into people who are dying from congestive heart failure, that there’s great risk since it’s an experimental new technology but since these people are going to die anyways it’s ok to do this. So the FDA allows putting genetically engineered pig hearts into patients who are going to die from heart failure.

    BUT IT’S NOT OK to inject people (who are dying from congestive heart failure) with umbilical cord derived mesenchymal stem cells, I mean do you see the double standard here? Do you see the hypocrisy here?

    The FDA has clearly said it doesn’t like mesenchymal stem cells but hey it’s ok to used genetically engineered pig hearts during a heart transplant, yeah that’s totally ok!!!! BUT DON’T YOU DARE USE UMBILICAL CORD MESENCHYMAL STEM CELLS THE FDA DOES NOT ALLOW THAT!!!!!

    Don’t you see the hypocrisy here?

    So why does the FDA allow genetically engineered pig hearts but not umbilical cord MSCs?

    And yeah if I’m dying from congestive heart failure and if I can afford it, then I’m going to go to Panama to get stem cells.

    I would love to see a clinical trial in the USA treating heart failure with umbilical cord MSCs. And I think it’s only a matter of time till someone finally successfully passes a phase 3 trial and finally gets FDA approval for MSCs.

    1. Actually it is OK to try out MSCs on people dying of heart failure if you do things right in a real clinical trial and such clinical studies are already ongoing. What’s doing it right? You work with the FDA and do things rigorously, you have past large animal model pre-clinical data, you have a track record of publishing data and only proceeding if your data are excellent, you aren’t directly profiting off of the investigational procedure itself, etc.

    2. The reason that it’s not a good idea to inject umbilical cord cells into the heart is they don’t do any good. That’s been tested and failed. So now we need to move forward and try something else, like a heart transplant. Human hearts for transplant are hard to find, so it’s reasonable to try hearts from genetically engineered pigs – they might save human lives when human hearts aren’t available. That’s the logic.

      1. “The reason that it’s not a good idea to inject umbilical cord cells into the heart is they don’t do any good. That’s been tested and failed.”

        I believe you’re referring to Mesoblast, they used bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells.

        I think Mesoblast would have had much better results if they had used umbilical cord MSCs.

        And believe it or not these clinics overseas only intravenously inject their heart failure patients with umbilical cord MSCs, that’s it it’s just an IV infusion.

        Umbilical cord MSCs have yet to go through a clinical trial for heart failure.

        But currently umbilical cord MSCs are going through a clinical trial for type 1 diabetes and the early results are looking fantastic!

        1. Jake,
          Please remember that Reddit, and social media stories in general, are not vetted data driven science. They are stories and opinions, not facts. We can only move medical science forward via well tested and proven methodologies… not ‘one simple trick’ or ‘Doctors are mad because of this hack’. That’s clickbait, not science.

      2. Actually MSCs have worked in several scenarios. Their role is only to provide paracrine support to tissue-resident stem cells. As a result the tissue-resident stem cells function normally and result in regeneration of the defective tissue. We need to get the biology correct. Scientists are injecting MSCs, some describe them as pluripotent (which is not correct) ,,, and the mechanism by which they are useful is not yet clear.

        VSELs exist in the heart (PMID: 33492626) and help maintain lifelong homeostasis. MSCs or the exosomes derived from them will provide good paracrine support that may be damaged due to the pathology. Thus VSELs will regenerate the damaged cardiomyocytes …

      3. And there is interesting work on making patches of cardiac cellular material from stem cells, or even re-engineering a heart from stem cells on a decellularized matrix. All sorts of amazing work… and its being done with rigorous scientific study. THAT is the major difference. Science, especially medical science, must be proven to be safe and effective… not just anecdotes and testimonials. Its a very important distinction.

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