According to the retraction notice for one of the papers, “Gold nanoparticles inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor-induced angiogenesis and vascular permeability via Src
dependent pathway in retinal endothelial cells” (we’ve annotated with links and citation data):
This article has been retracted at the request of the Editors as it contains manipulated figures.
In Figs. 3 and 4, [below] paper photomicrographs are supposed to represent images of endothelial cell cultures after scratching the monolayer in order to assess migration of the cells. However, the panels do not represent independent data, but instead contain repetitive cell patterns suggestive of digital manipulation of these figures.
As such, this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community and the Editors take a very strong view on this matter, and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this problem was not detected during the submission and review process.
It has been found that other articles from the same laboratory also contain manipulated figures. We have listed those articles below.
Pigment epithelium-derived factor inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor-and interleukin-1beta-induced vascular permeability and angiogenesis in retinal endothelial cells. Sheikpranbabu S, Ravinarayanan H, Elayappan B, Jongsun P, Gurunathan S. Vascul Pharmacol. 2010 Jan-Feb;52(1–2):84–94. Epub 2009 Dec 16. [Retraction notice available here.]
Pigment epithelium-derived factor inhibits erythropoietin-induced retinal endothelial cell angiogenesis by suppression of PI3K/Akt pathway. Haribalaganesh R, Sheikpranbabu S, Banumathi E, Gurunathan S. Exp Eye Res. 2010 Jun;90(6):726–33. Epub 2010 Mar 16. [Cited twice, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge]
Isolation and characterization of goat retinal microvascular endothelial cells. Haribalaganesh R, Banumathi E, Sheikpranbabu S, Deepak V, Sirishkumar N, Gurunathan S. In Vitro Cell Dev Biol Anim. 2010 Jun;46(6):529–37. Epub 2010 Mar 7.
High-yielding enzymatic method for isolation and culture of microvascular endothelial cells from bovine retinal blood vessels. Banumathi E, Haribalaganesh R, Babu SS, Kumar NS, Sangiliyandi G. Microvasc Res. 2009 May;77(3):377–81. Epub 2009 Feb 21.
Pigment epithelium-derived factor inhibits advanced glycation end-product-induced angiogenesis and stimulates apoptosis in retinal endothelial cells. Sardarpasha Sheikpranbabu, Ravinarayanan Haribalaganesh, Elayappan Banumathi, Namagiri Sirishkumar, Kyung-Jin Lee, Sangiliyandi Gurunathan. Life Sciences. 2009 November;85(21–22):719–31. Epub 2009 October 8.
Gold nanoparticles inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor-induced angiogenesis and vascular permeability via Src-dependent pathway in retinal endothelial cells. Kalishwaralal K, Sheikpranbabu S, BarathManiKanth S, Haribalaganesh R, Ramkumarpandian S, Gurunathan S. Angiogenesis 2011 Mar;14(1):29–45. Epub 2010 November 9. [This is the same article mentioned in the notice.]
PEDF inhibits VEGF- and EPO-induced angiogenesis in retinal endothelial cells through interruption of PI3K/Akt phosphorylation. Banumathi Elayappan, Haribalaganesh Ravinarayannan, Sheik Pran Babu Sardar Pasha, Kyung-jin Lee and Sangiliyandi Gurunathan. Angiogenesis 2009, Dec 12(4):313–324. Epub 2009 August 6. [A retraction notice is available for this paper, which has been cited seven times.]
PEDF prevents reactive oxygen species generation and retinal endothelial cell damage at high glucose levels. Elayappan Banumathi, Sardarpasha Sheikpranbabu, Ravinarayanan Haribalaganesh, Sangiliyandi Gurunathan. Exp Eye Res. 2010 90(1):89–96. Epub 2009 October 16. [Cited four times.]
At least one of the papers from journals other than Angiogenesis, the 2010 article in Vascular Pharmacology, has already been retracted. But others have yet to be pulled. Frank Porreca, editor of Life Sciences, told us that his journal
is still trying to deal with the issues
and that the matter is
an ongoing thing at the moment.
Porreca said he he been in touch with Angiogenesis about the wholesale retraction notice. So, we’re curious why it’s taking some journals longer to retract these papers than others.
Meanwhile, we emailed the senior author, Sangiliyandi Gurunathan, for comment and he replied (comments edited for spelling). Gurunathan, head of the biotechnology department at Kalasalingam University, pinned the blame on errant, unethical, students:
When I was in sabbatical leave my three students did mistakes without my knowledge, they committed their mistakes themselves. They committed only after detailed investigation. If they could inform in advance at least it shouldn’t be taken this much of damage to my lab as well as institute.
As a guide I can teach them how to design the experiment, ideas and to finish their work, the students should have ethical values. Just because of this issue my 20 years hard work gone to waste. Because people don’t know what happened really. They are writing whatever they want.
Of course, the implication of that response is that Gurunathan did not bother to read the manuscripts that his students were writing under his name. But he denied that.
I know my name [is on] the manuscript when we are submitting, when I was checking the manuscript, I used to check the concept, logical and other writing part, the real experiments were done by students only, when they are submitting figures to me or journals,the reviewer or myself we are not able to see the manipulation of figures by our naked eye, because nowadays so many softwares are available to make figures into good quality, when they are doing work with software , they did mistakes. When I was asking them they said not intentional only human error.
We’re not sure how the corrupt student narrative squares with the honest mistake excuse, or whether Gurunathan simply is relating what he was told.
Gurunathan, who urged us not to list the tainted papers — despite the fact that Angiogenesis had done so, claiming it would cause “ten students [to] get demotivated” — took a shot at publishers and editors for not catching the problems sooner.
[J]ournals are checking after leaking of information from somewhere, why they are not checking in the submission time, after all these they are accusing us. Even some journals they are checking data manipulation and plagiarism everything during submission time, why not Angiogenesis and Elsevier journals are not checking in the first place.
We asked Gurunathan if anyone involved in the image case had been disciplined, but he did not respond.
Note: We also found a blog post from loyal Retraction Watch reader Krishna Pillai which mentions another paper from Gurunathan’s group that was retracted earlier this year because of plagiarism.
Update, 3:15 p.m. Eastern, 7/27/11: Back to those images. In response to a comment, here they are. Can you spot the manipulation?
Update, 9 a.m. Eastern, 7/28/11: Gurunathan got back to us about the status of his students. There were consequences, he said:
Yes, three students are are punished, right now almost all of them ready to submit their Ph.D thesis, but they have to repeat all the experiments and they have to submit after one year.