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Increasing Number Of Studies in Heart Disease Found to be Fraudulant

Increasing Number Of Studies in Heart Disease Found to be Fraudulant

In June of this year, Reuters published an in-depth investigative review, looking back years into the Brigham-Harvard scandal. The Brigham-Harvard scandal centers around a 2001 study that upended what was known about stem-cell research and showed the potential of stem cell treatments for heart conditions. This study is responsible for creating the market around stem cell treatments, by 2007 regenerative medicine was valued at fifteen times more globally than it had been four years prior. Since 2001, about 5,000 patients (including infants) have participated in clinical trials researching stem cell treatments for heart conditions. The data presented in this study was manipulated. 

From this study Dr. Piero Anverso received $45 million in NIH grants and three central collaborators of his were within the top 20 recipients of stem cell funding for heart disease. Anversa’s key partner in crime was Bernardo Nadal Ginard who a US court judge was called “a common and notorious thief” when he was sentenced to 9 months (not years) for misappropriating funds when he served as chairman of Boston Children’s Hospital.

Ginard was still under court supervision following his jail time when he started collaborating with Anverso in 1999. From 2001 to the present day there has been a network of involved researchers helping each other keep the perceived results of the faked study alive even years after many were skeptical of it because its results could not be replicated anywhere else. This network of researchers supported each in a variety of positions as editors of scientific journals or as members of NIH grant board committees. So long after everyone knew the 2001 study was faked (the DOJ found Anversa’s lab guilty of fabrication in 2013), the money from the federal government kept rolling in to fund more “research”. In fact, the NIH is still giving money to stem cell treatment research for heart disease while the field had been disproven.

This week, more studies on heart conditions are being put under scrutiny. These studies are all coming out of Temple University. These new studies under scrutiny share an overlap of the same supervisor and co-authors. These studies are purporting that the drug Xarelto (a blood thinner) works for heart conditions. Recently, it was found that five studies coming out of Temple University manipulated data to make it appear that blood thinner had healing effects. These studies were federally funded by the NIH and are linked together by a handful of the same colleagues.   In September of 2020, the federal government requested that Temple investigate misconduct related to studies that were supported by NIH grants. Temple never told established scientific journals that the government had asked it to investigate fraud. This means the false studies stayed in circulation to mislead other researchers and doctors. The journals found out and started conducting their own review of the studies this week. Xarelto is a Janssen drug, which is a part of Johnson and Johnson. 

Altogether, fifteen studies from 2008-2020 have been subject to investigation and of those fifteen, nine of them have the same supervisor, Abdel Karim Sabri. Five of the studies of the Sabri studies name Steven R. Houser, former president of the American Heart Association, as an author. Houser was also an author of four other (non-Sabri) studies that are drawing skepticism. Houser’s name coincidentally came up in the Reuters Brigham-Harvard stem-cell article. In regards to Anversa, Houser is quoted in the June investigation as saying, “The cardiac stem cell hypothesis did not fall into disfavor because of the discovery of data fabrication by Anversa’s lab. It went away because of careful science.” Houser's involvement in defending fraudulent stem cell studies just three months ago and now his involvement in suspicious studies is.

Because of the nature of researchers covering for each other, at this point, it's hard to determine how broad and how deep data manipulation has been used in cardiac research in the past 20 years. This type of fraud (in my opinion) has a bigger impact than Theranos. Theranos was a cute Silicon Valley start-up that mainly just duped private investors while these scandals (and likely more), gave patients false hope, misled doctors from inside the system, stole $45 billion of taxpayer money in grants, and caused a real setback to secure funding for legitimate research to be conducted. If there's a takeaway, it's that sometimes science is only as good as the people conducting it.

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