A group of researchers from Shangdong, China, has retracted their 2011 paper in the Journal of Molecular Medicine on the heart-protective properties of a substance in ginseng because the article contained dodgy figures.
The article, “Ginsenoside-Rg1 enhances angiogenesis and ameliorates ventricular remodeling in a rat model of myocardial infarction,” purported to show that ginsenoside:
increased VEGF expression levels, activated PI3K/Akt, and inhibited p38 MAPK in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, Rg1 increased the density of newly formed vessels, decreased TNF-α and collagen I expression levels and area of myocardial fibrosis, and improved left ventricle function in vivo. PI3K inhibitor LY294002 significantly attenuated Rg1-enhanced VEGF expression and capillary density. As well, inhibition of p38 MAPK slightly increased VEGF expression in vitro and in vivo, increased capillary density, and decreased TNF-α and collagen I expression levels and area of myocardial fibrosis in vivo. Rg1-induced activation of PI3K/Akt also contributed to the downregulation of p38 MAPK. Thus, Rg1 is effective in promoting angiogenesis and attenuating myocardial fibrosis, resulting in ameliorated left ventricular function.
Except that, well, let the authors explain:
This article has been retracted upon request of the authors. The retraction has been made due to duplication of blots in Figure 1a and Figure 3 in this paper. The authors deeply apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused to the readers.
That sure sounds to us like image manipulation, but then again it might have been a simple error.
The paper has been cited five times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
Christiane Nolte, managing editor of the JMM, told us that the journal, a Springer title, heard from a reader about a problem with the figures:
We learned about a problem with this paper by end of last year. We confronted the authors with this issue, and asked explanation how this issue happened. The authors themselves suggested to retract the article.
We are not aware of other retractions coming from that group.