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UCL launches investigation into links with surgeon accused of involuntary manslaughter


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This week an investigation has been launched by the University College London into its connections with Paolo Macchiarini.

Macchirarini was suspended from the Karolinska Institute, a prestigious medical university in Stockholm, following allegations of both clinical and scientific misconduct. The Swedish authorities are now investigating the surgeon under charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Macchiarini was the first surgeon to perform a tracheal transplant (transplant of the windpipe) with a synthetic trachea that had been combined with the patient's stem cells. At first, the surgery seemed to be a success and three were completed overall.

But two of the patients have since passed away as a result of the surgery, and investigations have shown that Macchiarini fabricated information in his medical reports.

UCL has launched its own investigation into its links with Macchiarini. Senior scientists at UCL have contributed to the procedures carried out by Macchiarini, but it is not believed that they are responsible for any misconduct.

A former UCL professor made the synthetic trachea used in the first surgery. The trachea was made in just ten days after the professor was approached by Macchiarini as he was told the patient had only two weeks to live. The material had only previously been used to make ears and noses. The material was clinically safe, but the trachea was not tested on its functionality and this later led to the fatal complication.

The Karolinska Institute has come under fire due to its prestigious reputation. The school is responsible for selecting the winners of the medicine/physiology Nobel Prize, but trust is dissipating - a recent opinion poll of Swedish nationals showed the university ranking in 12th place, as opposed to its previously held 4th position.

This scandal has rocked the scientific world and serves as a wake-up call to universities on the responsibility that they hold with their associated research.

Images by Steve Cadman and Ainali

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