‘There Was Nothing Anybody Could Do for These Patients.’ Now There Is.


A Swedish filmmaker’s investigative documentary raised additional questions, as did a Vanity Fair article detailing how the beguiling surgeon turned romantically concerned with an NBC producer engaged on a characteristic about him and apparently conned her into believing he was divorced and would marry her in a ceremony officiated by the pope and attended by the Clintons, Obamas, John Legend and Elton John.

The Karolinska Institute, alleging scientific misconduct, dismissed Dr. Macchiarini, who has lengthy denied wrongdoing. Journals retracted a number of of his research. In 2019, an Italian court mentioned he had cast paperwork and abused his place, costs unrelated to his trachea work. In September, a Swedish prosecutor indicted him on aggravated assault costs associated to a few trachea transplants. The case is pending.

Dr. Genden mentioned Dr. Macchiarini’s rise and fall profoundly affected his personal path.

“Here’s this handsome Italian surgeon at the finest institution in the world, the Karolinska, and he’s everything I’m not: He’s got a beautiful head of hair, he drives a motorcycle, he’s got an accent, he’s incredibly charismatic and dynamic,” Dr. Genden mentioned. “He says, ‘I’ve created this bioreactor and it’s stem cells and it makes tracheas.’ And it’s huge.”

Dr. Genden mentioned that when he and colleagues questioned Dr. Macchiarini at a convention early on, “in his bigger-than-life way he says, ‘This is ridiculous, you don’t know what you’re talking about, it functions beautifully.’”

Dr. Genden thought his work had “become obsolete, so you basically shut down the lab,” he mentioned. “You can’t justify doing experimental surgery and immunosuppression when you see something else that looks perfect, so you realize, wow, we’re out of business.”

As Dr. Macchiarini’s work drew criticism, Dr. Genden revived his concept, however was unsure about attempting it. The scandal meant “there’s an amazing amount of scrutiny,” he mentioned. “We’re going to show up and say, ‘As a student, I had this idea on the back of a napkin and now we’re ready to go’ — and if it fails, the patient dies and it becomes yet another example of some surgeon who thought he could solve a problem and he’s created, instead, just the opposite.”

There was one more reason to be daunted too: historic assumptions that tracheas weren’t transplantable.



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