A Swedish filmmaker’s investigative documentary raised other questions, as did a Vanity Fair article detailing how the handsome surgeon fell in love with an NBC producer working on a feature film about him and apparently has it. tricked into believing he was divorced and would marry her in an unofficial ceremony. by the Pope and in the presence of the Clintons, Obamas, John Legend and Elton John.
The Karolinska Institute, alleging scientific misconduct, fired Dr Macchiarini, who has long denied wrongdoing. The newspapers retracted many of his studies. In 2019, an Italian court said he had falsified documents and abused his position, charges unrelated to his work on the trachea. In September, a Swedish prosecutor charged him with aggravated assault related to three trachea transplants. The case is pending.
Dr Genden said that the rise and fall of Dr Macchiarini had profoundly affected his own path.
“Here is this handsome Italian surgeon from the most beautiful institution in the world, Karolinska, and he is everything I am not: he has beautiful hair, he drives a motorcycle, he has an accent, he is incredibly charismatic and dynamic. , ”Says Dr. Genden. “He says, ‘I created this bioreactor and it’s stem cells and it produces tracheae.’ And it is huge.
Dr Genden said that when he and his colleagues questioned Dr Macchiarini at the start of a lecture, “in his larger than life way he said, ‘This is ridiculous, you don’t know what you’re talking about, it works beautifully. “
Dr Genden thought his work had “become obsolete, so you basically shut down the lab,” he said. “You can’t justify experimental surgery and immunosuppression when you see something else that looks perfect, then you realize, wow, we’re bankrupt.”
While Dr Macchiarini’s work drew criticism, Dr Genden revived his idea, but was not sure to try it. The scandal meant “there is an incredible amount of control,” he said. “We’re going to come in and say, ‘As a student I had this idea on the back of a towel and now we’re good to go’ – and if that fails the patient dies and it becomes yet another. example of a surgeon who thought he could solve a problem and created, instead, just the opposite.
There was another reason to be discouraged as well: historical assumptions that tracheae were not transplantable.