Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Journal retracts nanoparticles paper for duplicating figures

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no spine minimum. full size. Editor: Ann Meares JEM: Diane RTP: Jill Kessler

A paper on nanoparticles that target cancer cells has been retracted for duplicating figures from three other papers.

The articles all share a first author: Manasmita Das, based at the time of the research at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur and the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER). According to her LinkedIn profile, she is currently a postdoc at the University of North Carolina.

The abstract of the 2011 Bioconjugate Chemistry paper explains just what the new nanoparticles would be useful for:

Multifunctional nanoparticles, developed in the course of the study, could selectively target and induce apoptosis to folate-receptor (FR) overexpressing cancer cells with enhanced efficacy as compared to the free drug. In addition, the dual optical and magnetic properties of the synthesized nanoparticles aided in the real-time tracking of their intracellular pathways also as apoptotic events through dual fluorescence and MR-based imaging.

But according to the retraction note, figure duplications “seriously undermine the conclusions presented in the research article.” Here’s more about the source of those duplications from the full note:

With agreement from the corresponding author, the Editor-in-Chief retracts the article ‘“Clickable”, Trifunctional Magnetite Nanoparticles and Their Chemoselective Biofunctionalization’, Bioconjugate Chemistry 2011, 22 (6), p 1181, DOI: 10.1021/bc2000484, due to the duplication of figures from other previously published articles, which is a violation of the ACS Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research. Specifically, Figure 2a was reused from Figure 2b in the article “Biofunctionalization of Magnetite Nanoparticles Using an Aminophosphonic Acid Coupling Agent: New, Ultradispersed, Iron-Oxide Folate Nanoconjugates for Cancer-Specific Targeting” , Nanotechnology 2008, 19 (41), p 415101, DOI: 10.1088/0957–4484/19/41/415101, and not cited in the figure caption. Figures 4a, 8, and 9 were duplicated from Figures 5d, 7, and 8, respectively, in the article “Biofunctionalized, Phosphonate-Grafted, Ultrasmall Iron Oxide Nanoparticles for Combined Targeted Cancer Therapy and Multimodal Imaging”, Small 2009, 5 (24), p 2883, DOI: 10.1002/smll.200901219, and used to describe different results. Figure 8 appears as Figure 8a in the article “Orthogonal Biofunctionalization of Magnetic Nanoparticles via “Clickable” Poly(ethylene glycol) Silanes: A “Universal Ligand” Strategy to Design Stealth and Target-Specific Nanocarriers”, Journal of Materials Chemistry 2012, 22, p 24652, DOI: 10.1039/C2JM34571D. These duplications seriously undermine the conclusions presented in the research article.

The paper has been cited 26 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

We asked a spokesperson for the journal how the problem came to light:

The answer is the journal editor received an inquiry from an external source.  Any inquiry questioning the integrity of literature in any of ACS’s journals is taken seriously and addressed as a matter of priority. In this case the corresponding author and Editor agreed that retraction of the article was appropriate due to duplication of figures from previously published articles.

We reached out Das, and will update this post if we hear back.

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