Harvard-Brigham heart researcher under investigation earns Lancet Expression of Concern
On Tuesday, we broke the news of the retraction in Circulation of a paper on cardiac stem cells by a group of researchers being investigated by Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Today, The Lancet has issued an Expression of Concern about another paper led by Piero Anversa, the last author of the Circulation paper.
Here’s the notice:
On March 25, 2014, Gretchen Brodnicki, Harvard Medical School’s Dean for Faculty and Research Integrity, wrote to The Lancet to inform us that “Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are reviewing concerns about the integrity of certain data generated in a laboratory at BWH and included in the following published paper…[the] 2011 Lancet SCIPIO paper”.1 The focus of this investigation is on two supplemental figures published online (figures 2A and 3). As far as we are aware, the investigation is confined to the work completed at BWH. Gretchen Brodnicki continues, “Because review of this paper is ongoing, we cannot provide additional details at this time.” In further discussions with Harvard Medical School, we have been told that the current investigation into this aspect of the work reported in the SCIPIO trial is likely to take several months. As soon as The Lancet receives further information, we will inform readers accordingly.
The paper has been cited 270 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Anversa is the last author, and the University of Louisville’s Robert Bolli is the corresponding author.
Bolli was quoted at the time the study came out saying that the work might be “the biggest advance in cardiology in my lifetime.” Here he is discussing work based on the results of the study, known as SCIPIO, in 2012.
Update, 6:20 p.m. Eastern, 4/11/14: Anversa tells Retraction Watch:
As stated in the retraction notice in Circulation, there in an institutional review at Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital regarding this matter that is ongoing. I am fully cooperating with that process, and cannot comment on it due to its ongoing nature. I continue to believe, based on research in our laboratory and elsewhere, that human cardiac cells regenerate at a higher rate than has been stated in other published research.
I welcome further study of these important issues.
I am, unfortunately, not able to comment or discuss the matter further.
According to knowledgeable sources, the Harvard letter requested a full retraction of the article by the Lancet. But without more details about the concerns raised by the Harvard investigation the editors thought an expression of concern was the most they could justify.