Three journals belonging to the American Heart Association are dealing with a data manipulation case involving a Japanese scientist who collaborated with some of the United States’ most prominent cardiac specialists.
Circulation has retracted a 2008 article after the researchers said the lead author’s sloppy record-keeping prevented them from reproducing their experiments. We think there might be a bit more to the story.
Here’s the notice:
The authors of the following article have requested that it be retracted from publication in Circulation:
Kawakami A, Osaka M, Tani M, Azuma H, Sacks FM, Shimokado K, Yoshida M. Apolipoprotein CIII links hyperlipidemia with vascular endothelial cell dysfunction. Circulation. 2008;118:731–742.
The corresponding author, Dr Akio Kawakami, reported to the editors that the authors of this manuscript have raised concerns related to the accuracy of the data presented in this article. In the process of following up the findings reported in this study, they were unable to reproduce some experiments due to Dr Akio Kawakami’s negligence in keeping proper original records. This information was reported to the editors by Dr Kawakami directly. The authors apologize to the readers of Circulation for any inconvenience caused by this retraction.
The paper, according to the authors, carried substantial promise:
Our results suggest that apoCIII is a crucial link between dyslipidemia and insulin resistance in vascular endothelial cells with consequential deleterious effects on their atheroprotective functions.
It has been cited 37 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
We generally don’t like to read between the lines — unless we’re forced by opacity and lack of cooperation, anyway — but we think it’s worth noting that the paper includes a data supplement of figures and a Word document describing, in detail, the research methods.
So, a few things could be true. The data supplement might be woefully inadequate to guide the reconstruction of the study — in which case, perhaps the reviewers and editors might have figured that out prior to publication. Or, the supplement contains enough information, but Kawakami’s results don’t jibe with the follow-up findings for other reasons.
According to his most recent publication, Kawakami is with the department of Geriatrics and Vascular Medicine at Tokyo Medical and Dental University.
FM Sacks is Frank Sacks, of Harvard’s Channing Laboratory. He and Kawakami have published at least six papers together on apolipoprotein CIII, three of which appeared in Circulation, including the 2006 article “Apolipoprotein CIII in apolipoprotein B lipoproteins enhances the adhesion of human monocytic cells to endothelial cells.” Their most recent title appears to be a 2010 article in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, which, like Circulation, is a title of the American Heart Association.
We’ve left a message for Sacks, and will update with anything we hear back.
Update, 2:30 p.m. Eastern, 2/15/12: Meanwhile, readers have pointed us to another Kawakami paper, in Circulation Research, that has been retracted. The notice is not live on the journal’s website, however — we’re told it will be going up on Thursday afternoon — and we don’t know what it says. We’ll update this post when we learn more.
Update, 4:45 p.m. Eastern, 2/15/12: We’ve heard from the AHA that the Kawakami paper in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology also will be retracted, although the notice is not yet available. According to an AHA spokesperson, the journals first learned about a problem with the articles in December.
In addition to Sacks, another prominent Harvard co-author on the paper
s in Circulation Research and Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology is Peter Libby, chief of cardiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. (Note: Libby and Kawakami appear on a different paper in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology from the one that is being retracted, as well as two other articles in Circulation, here and here, neither of which to our knowledge is being retracted.)
In 2011, Libby won the AHA’s Basic Research Prize for his work on illuminating the role of inflammation and other triggers of heart disease.
Update, 5:20 p.m. Eastern, 2/15/12. Headline, first paragraph changed to reflect new information. We finally have the retraction notices for the two other papers.
Here’s Circulation Research‘s statement:
The authors of the following article have requested that it be retracted from publication in Circulation Research:
Kawakami A, Osaka M, Aikawa M, Uematsu S, Akira S, Libby P, Shimokado K, Sacks FM, Yoshida M. Toll-like receptor 2 mediates apolipoprotein CIII–induced monocyte activation. Circ Res. 2008;103:1402–1409.
The corresponding author, Dr Akio Kawakami, admitted to the editors to improperly handling the collection and presentation of data in this article such that the authors can no longer verify the authenticity and accuracy of the data presented. These errors include, but may not be limited to, the blots in Figure 2A, Figure 4D, and Online Figure III originating from unrelated experiments of the corresponding author, and the incorrect reporting of “n” in Figures 5 and 6, which are less than indicated. As such, data in those figures are not verifiable.
All co-authors involved in this study other than the corresponding author, Dr Kawakami, had no knowledge of any scientific impropriety related to the collection, analysis, or presentation of data in this article. Dr Kawakami takes full responsibililty for this.
And here’s ATVB‘s notice:
The authors of the following article have requested that it be retracted from publication in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology:
Abe Y, Kawakami A, Osaka M, Uematsu S, Akira S, Shimokado K, Sacks FM, Yoshida M. Apolipoprotein CIII induces monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 and interleukin 6 expression via toll-like receptor 2 pathway in mouse adipocytes. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2010;30:2242–2248.
The corresponding author, Dr Akio Kawakami, reported to the editors his concerns related to the authenticity and accuracy of the data presented in this article. Because the number of experiments was inflated in some studies, and the corresponding author presented some data from unrelated experiments, the results are not verifiable. All co-authors involved in this study other than the corresponding author had no knowledge of any scientific impropriety related to the collection, analysis, or presentation of data in this article. Dr Kawakami apologizes for any adverse consequences that may have resulted from the article’s publication and any inconvenience and wasted effort that this may have caused the scientific community and readers of the journal.