Journal Fallout Over Controversial Stem Cell Doc's Research

Patrice Wendling

October 18, 2018

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has retracted one paper and issued an "expression of concern" about two others by former Harvard University professor and cardiac stem cell proponent Piero Anversa, MD.

Earlier this week, Harvard and Brigham & Women's Hospital recommended that various unnamed medical journals retract 31 papers by Anversa because they included falsified and/or fabricated data.

In an editorial announcing the retraction, Jeffrey Drazen, MD, editor-in-chief of NEJM, says that several of Anversa's coauthors on a 2011 paper, "Evidence for Human Lung Stem Cells," requested that it be retracted and that the institutions' investigation concluded that some of the images in the paper were manipulated.

"The authors tell us, that: 'a review of the original data affirms this conclusion and has led us to conclude that we no longer have faith in the veracity of these images. As we were not aware of this manipulation of the data until long after the paper had been published, we now request that the article be retracted," Drazen writes.

In a second editorial, Drazen says the investigation by Harvard and the Brigham also uncovered evidence "that is consistent with image manipulation" in a 2001 paper published in NEJM by Anversa, "Evidence That Human Cardiac Myocytes Divide After Myocardial Infarction."

Suspicion was also cast over a second paper by Anversa, published in 2002, "Chimerism of the transplanted Heart."

Both papers were written before Anversa moved his laboratory from the New York Medical College to Brigham & Women's Hospital in 2007.

Drazen writes: "We are communicating with the authors of the 2001 and 2002 articles and with institutional officials at the New York Medical College concerning the veracity of the data presented therein. While we await the results of these communications, we are publishing this Expression of Concern to indicate that the data presented in the articles named above may not be reliable."

In 2014, the journal Circulation retracted a paper by Anversa and colleagues, "Cardiomyogenesis in the Aging and Failing Human Heart," citing a review by Harvard and the Brigham that determined the data are "sufficiently compromised."

N Engl J Med. Published online October 17, 2018. Retraction, Expression of Concern

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