Picture: Wikimedia Commons

London - A leading British university has been accused of a ‘cover-up’ over the deaths of two young women during experimental stem-cell treatment.

University College London applied for government funding for the first human trial of a larynx-transplant procedure for people with failing windpipes.

But it mentioned only one of the deaths in its application – and claimed that it was unrelated to the procedure.

It also failed to mention the deaths at all in literature it handed out to potential patients volunteering for the trial.

Leaflets claimed the trial was a ‘first-in-human study’ being done to ‘investigate the safety and potential benefit’ of the technique, which would transplant new windpipes into people with breathing problems.

The document, drawn up in 2015, listed some potential side-effects expected in an operation on the trachea, but added: ‘As this is the first time this new technique has been used, we are unsure if there are any other disadvantages.’

It failed to mention that Shauna Davison, 15, had died after undergoing a similar stem-cell engineered transplant in 2012. In addition Keziah Shorten, 20, had also died after undergoing a similar procedure in 2010.

The leaflets were never given to patients because the trial was shelved after it emerged at least six other people had died in Sweden under the care of maverick surgeon Dr Paolo Macchiarini, who pioneered the windpipe procedure.

But rival academics have now drawn attention to the lack of transparency, accusing the UCL team of ‘covering up’ the truth about the young women.

The General Medical Council is also investigating the concerns.

Professor Patricia Murray, of Liverpool University, who raised the issue, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘Lying to patients on brochures is unforgivable, it is really tricking them into having these operations.’

It is understood that, although the technique was similar, the technology behind the transplants was slightly different.

UCL scientists were among a group of academics who pioneered techniques to ‘grow’ new windpipes using a patient’s own stem cells. Experts hoped patients with tracheal cancer or other breathing problems would have their lives transformed.

A UCL spokesman said: ‘UCL and its staff have been open and transparent regarding issues surrounding regenerative medicine research.

‘Any research undertaken at UCL is required to conform to the highest legal, ethical and regulatory standards.’

Daily Mail