The case, which attracted international attention in the mainstream media, involves a prominent heart researcher, Piero Anversa, formerly of Harvard, and requests for 31 retractions. STAT/Retraction Watch broke the story in a piece written by Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus. The New York Times, the Washington Post and other publications followed.
As the New York Times summarized, Anversa "fabricated or falsified data in 31 published studies that should be retracted, officials at the institutions have concluded." Harvard has been fined $10 million by the federal government.
Carolyn Johnson of the Washington Post quoted a California stem cell researcher:
"'This body of work has, for better or worse, been hugely influential,' said Eduardo Marbán, director of the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. 'Despite the fact that several prominent laboratories failed to confirm key findings, c-kit positive heart cells were rapidly translated to clinical testing in heart failure patients. … One can only hope that no patients have been placed at risk in clinical trials based upon fraudulent data.'"Another California researcher, Benoit Bruneau, was quoted by the New York Times.
"A couple of papers may be alarming, but 31 additional papers in question is almost unheard-of,' said Benoit Bruneau, associate director of cardiovascular research at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco. 'It is a lab’s almost entire body of work, and therefore almost an entire field of research, put into question.'"Gina Kolata of the New York Times wrote,
"Despite the troubling questions that had been raised about the stem cell work, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute began a clinical trial of injected stem cells for patients with heart failure....
"In the past few years, however, skeptical researchers moved on to other prospects for heart treatment. 'The field has backed off a lot,' (Jeffery) Molkentin (a professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) said.
"Some scientists wondered how a questionable line of research persisted for so long. Maybe, Dr. Molkentin said, experts were just too timid to take a stand."Some researchers have called for suspension of the $63 million clinical trial, including Deepak Srivastava, president of the Gladstone Institutes and president-elect of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.