Can we trust Western blots?
The title of this post is the headline of our latest column for LabTimes. It’s inspired by a number of animated discussions on Retraction Watch following our coverage of various Western blot problems — some unintentional, and some, well, less so.
Take, for example, this comment, which we quote in the column:
Western blots have become a joke in published papers due to the failure of researchers to perform proper controls/replicates and the failure of reviewers to demand this data.
As we note in the column (links added):
Pictures of the gels that result might be highly valuable for researchers trying to demonstrate an effect but they also seem to be the method of choice for image manipulators trying to make their results look better than they really are.
Such manipulation, which often involves using the same controls multiple times, has brought down more than 30 papers by cancer researcher Naoki Mori, left the career of resveratrol scientist Dipak Das in serious question, and forced the resignation of cardiology researcher Zhiguo Wang. And those are just a few of the most visible cases.
We offer some suggestions for improvement in the piece, which you can read in its entirety here. As always, we look forward to feedback from Retraction Watch readers.