Human Stem Cell Trial Questioned

Research purporting to cure patients with heart disease using induced pluripotent stem cells may be a fraud.

Oct 16, 2012
Edyta Zielinska

A poster sessionFlickr, ThinkGeoEnergyA clinical trial that claimed to treat six heart disease patients with induced pluripotent stem cells has been brought into question due to dubious reports about where the research had taken place and lead author Hisashi Moriguchi’s misrepresented institutional affiliations.

Moriguchi told Nature that his clinical trials were approved and conducted in Harvard facilities, which he lists as one of his affiliations. But, a Harvard communications officer told ScienceInsider that Moriguchi had only worked as a visiting fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) "from late November through the end of December of 1999," and he "has not been associated with MGH or Harvard" since then.

In addition, Harvard University released a statement saying that “no clinical trials related to Dr Moriguchi's work have been approved by institutional review boards at either Harvard University or MGH.”

On the heels of the Nobel Prize awarded for work on induced pluripotent stem cells last week, this research would have been the first time that such adult cells reverted to a stem-like state had been used to treat patients. Moriguchi told Nature that he had conducted most of the experiments himself—including initial safety research in pigs and then five other procedures in humans. However, he later told Nature that he only held a nursing degree from the Tokyo Medical and Dental University.

Last week (October 11), Moriguchi’s poster was taken down at annual gathering of stem cell researchers at Rockefeller University, when conference organizers began to suspect the research was invalid.  Investigations continue at the University of Tokyo, where Moriguchi still works in a lab, but only comes in once or twice a week.


Update (October 16, 2012): Hisashi Moriguchi held a press conference in New York on Saturday (October 13), the day after reports emerged questioning his clinical trial on an iPSC therapy for heart disease, admitting that he had lied about his research.