"Dr Con Man: the rise and fall of a celebrity scientist who fooled almost everyone.
Surgeon Paolo Macchiarini was hailed for turning the dream of regenerative
medicine into a reality – until he was exposed as a con artist and false prophet."
"Macchiarini shot to prominence back in 2008, when he created a new airway
for Claudia Castillo, a young woman from Barcelona. He did this by chemically
stripping away the cells of a windpipe taken from a deceased donor; he then
seeded the bare scaffold with stem cells taken from Castillo’s own bone marrow. ...
This was Macchiarini’s first big success. Countless news stories declared it a
medical breakthrough. A life-saver and a game-changer. We now know that wasn’t true.
However, the serious complications that Castillo suffered were, for a long time, kept very quiet."
"Last year, however, the dream soured, exposing an ugly reality.
Macchiarini gave his “regenerating” windpipes to 17 or more patients worldwide.
Most, including Andemariam Beyene, are now dead. Those few patients who are still
alive – including Castillo – have survived in spite of the artificial windpipes they received."
"In January 2016, Macchiarini received an extraordinary double dose of bad press.
The first was a Vanity Fair article about his affair with Benita Alexander,
an award-winning producer for NBC News. ... By the time the program aired,
in mid-2014, the couple were planning their marriage. ... But as the big day approached,
Alexander saw these plans unravel, and finally realised that her lover
had lied about almost everything. ... Likewise the whole idea of a
wedding: Macchiarini was still married to his wife of 30 years.
Macchiarini’s deceit was so outlandish, Vanity Fair sought the opinion of the
Harvard professor Ronald Schouten, an expert on psychopaths, who gave
this diagnosis-at-a-distance: “Macchiarini is the extreme form of a con man.""
"Stem cell research is a hot field of science and, according to statistics,
also a rather scandal-prone one. Articles in this area are retracted 2.4 times more
often than the average for biomedicine, and over half of these retractions are due to fraud.
Does the “heat” of stem cell research – the high levels of funding,
prestige and media coverage it enjoys – somehow encourage fraud?
That’s what our experience of medical research leads us to suspect."
"An alarmingly wide gap has grown between what we expect from stem cells and
what they deliver. Each new scientific discovery brings a flood of stories about
how it will revolutionise medicine one day soon. But that day is always postponed.
An unhappy result of this is the rise of pseudo-scientific therapies.
Stem cell clinics have sprung up like weeds, offering to treat just about any
ailment you can name. In place of clinical data, there are gushing testimonials."
"Paolo Macchiarini .. is a Swiss-born thoracic surgeon and a former
researcher on regenerative medicine, who became known for research fraud."
"If prosecuted, Macchiarini risks between 2 and 8 years of prison for manslaughter."