Harvard, Brigham Call for Retraction of 31 Papers by Disgraced Cardiac Stem Cell Doc

Patrice Wendling

October 16, 2018

Harvard University and Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston are calling for the retraction of 31 journal studies by Piero Anversa, MD, who left the hospital in disgrace over research misconduct.

"Following a review of research conducted in the former lab of Piero Anversa, we determined that 31 publications included falsified and/or fabricated data and we have notified all relevant journals," the institutions wrote in a joint statement.

"A bedrock principle of science is that all publications are supported by rigorous research practices," they continued. "When these practices deviate from community standards, there are far-reaching consequences for the scientific enterprise."

Anversa was a pioneer in cardiac stem cell therapy and had been director of the Center of Regenerative Medicine at Brigham.

He previously corrected eight of his papers and was at the heart of a $10 million settlement between the hospital and the US government over allegations that research by Anversa and two colleagues had been used to improperly obtain federal funding, according to Retraction Watch and STAT, which first reported the call for new retractions.

The joint media statement did not provide the names of the journals in which the 31 papers appeared.

The institutions, however, have raised concerns about Anversa's work with journals in the past, prompting a 2014 lawsuit by Anversa and fellow researcher Annarosa Leri against their former employers. The case was dismissed and the pair's subsequent appeal was denied in August 2016, according to Retraction Watch.

Anversa was a principal investigator of the SCIPIO trial, which suggested that a subpopulation of cardiac stem cells, called c-KIT-positive stem cells, could help rejuvenate the heart in patients with ischemic heart failure. As reported by theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology at the time, fellow SCIPIO investigator Roberto Bolli, MD, said further trials were needed, "but the important point is that we can now apply this therapy to almost every patient with heart failure."

The hype has never lived up to reality, however, with cardiac stem cells demonstrating mixed results, including in the recent ixCELL-DCM study.

Anversa has published more than 200 original articles and 61 book chapters/review articles. In 2003, he was honored as one of the American Heart Association's Distinguished Scientists.

He received his medical degree in 1965 from the University of Parma, Italy, where he worked as a professor of pathology before joining the New York Medical College in Valhalla as a stem cell researcher. He was named a full professor of anesthesia at Brigham & Women's in 2010.

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