According to a story from the New York Times, Harvard University has recently called for the retraction of 31 studies authored by a cardiologist associated with the school. The cardiologist in question is named Dr. Piero Anversa. His research is most famous for popularizing the belief that damage to the heart can be effectively repaired with the use of stem cells. Harvard now believes that all 31 of these studies contain data that was falsified by Piero.
Perhaps the first indication that this was the case was the fact that other laboratories could not replicate the findings that the doctor was able to uncover in his studies. However, this factor was not enough to stop the creation of multiple start ups that were intent in developing new treatments that were based on these studies from Piero. His data suggested that stem cells could be used to treat widespread cardiovascular problems like strokes and heart attacks. The National Institutes of Health even funded a study that was testing new treatments based on this research.
A review of the doctor’s research was first initiated in 2013, and another red flag was raised when the university’s medical school and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital forked out $10 million to the government in order to put to rest accusations that Dr. Anversa had tweaked data in order to receive funding. This payment was made in April of 2017. The extent of the doctor’s fraud is almost unprecedented in scale, and essentially calls into question years of work from the labs he was involved with.
Rise to Fame
The first paper in which Piero first published his alleged findings about stem cells and the heart appeared in 2001, and flew in the face of scientific consensus at that juncture. It is likely that his studies helped fuel something of a craze about them in the medical field, and as a result, certain medical centers offer “stem cell treatment” for a broad variety of ailments even when it is unproven that they have any effect.
Over the years, lab after lab failed to reproduce Piero’s findings, and a study released in 2014 appeared to completely refute his claims. It is unclear why it took Harvard so long to go public with information about Dr. Anversa’s fraudulent claims.