A team of researchers from the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine are currently under fire for allegedly altering research data for favorable results, and possibly doing clinical stem cell trials on humans without the required animal testing phase. The research team is under the leadership of Professor Hiroaki Matsubara, who was known for doing intensive research about heart conditions. Matsubara had resigned at the end of February this year.
The inquest started when an investigatory committee was sent to look into probable lapses in the research team’s procedure in treating a heart attack patient with stem cells in a 2004 clinical operation. The 56-year-old professor Matsubara informed the university, when questioned about the research papers that he published regarding the trials, that he used data from testing an animal with a chronic heart condition. The patient in question had an acute condition, and so a breach of ethics was declared. “From the perspective of medical ethics, it’s possible there were serious problems with the process,” the investigation committee stated in a report. The clinical trial was published by the team as a success. The team allegedly extracted blood vessel-forming stem cells from the patient who suffered an acute myocardial infarction. They attempted to start a regeneration of blood vessels in the heart by injecting stem cells directly into an artery. In a news conference held by the team the same day, they revealed that they had conducted a first-of-its-kind clinical operation, all the while mentioning that the process was tested with pigs first before the clinical trial. The patient was allegedly released from the hospital two weeks later.
But questions began to appear regarding the veracity of Matsubara’s research papers, especially the images included in the reports. A committee who looked into 18 of the research team’s papers was convinced that the cross-section images of blood vessels had been altered to show an increase in the number of blood vessels. The committee further revealed that at least 13 of the 18 papers contain micrographs and other pictures that were modified in one way or another. “Even if there was no intentional falsification or fabrication, he (Matsubara) cannot evade responsibility for continuing to present papers containing diagram mistakes to the international community with extremely high frequency,” the committee concluded. Matsubara then admitted to not having done animal testing for the proper process. “Under normal circumstances, there was probably a need to conduct tests on animals, but I determined that there would likely be no safety issues,” the disgraced professor said.
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