The former president of the Joslin Diabetes Center has withdrawn a second article within a month of his first, and issued extensive corrections to another paper in the same journal, all due to figure errors.
In November, we reported that Carl Ronald Kahn — also affiliated with Harvard Medical School — had pulled a highly cited 2005 paper from The Journal of Clinical Investigation because of image duplication issues, which Kahn told us were introduced during figure assembly. This December, Kahn retracted a 2003 paper published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC)—again due to duplication issues that the authors believe “were inadvertently introduced during figure assembly.”
Here’s the retraction notice for “Bi-directional regulation of brown fat adipogenesis by the insulin receptor,” cited 46 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters:
This article has been withdrawn by the authors. The authors were recently made aware of duplicated images of PCR reaction products in panels B and D in Fig. 2. These duplications were inadvertently introduced during figure assembly. Review of the original data generated in the lab at that time (2000–2002), as well as subsequent studies, confirmed the conclusions of the manuscript. However, in the interest of maintaining accuracy in the published scientific literature and because the initial figures were not up to the standards of JBC, the authors wish to withdraw this article. The authors apologize for these errors.
Regarding the retraction, Kahn told us something very similar to the retraction notice – namely that the mistakes were introduced while assembling the figures, but the findings remain valid:
We were able to identify the original data two independent experiments generated in the lab at the time the work was performed (2000-2002). These were very similar to the published figure and confirmed the results and conclusions of the manuscript.
We reached out to first author Amelia Entingh-Pearsall, but have not heard back.
The paper has been discussed on PubPeer, with one user alleging issues in Figure 2.
One of the authors on the latest retraction, Cullen Taniguchi, now based at MD Anderson Cancer Center, was the first author on the JCI paper that was retracted late last year. Taniguchi told his contributions to the JBC paper were “minimal:”
I had performed a few pilot experiments for this project under the direct supervision of Dr. Pearsall (née Entingh) as a rotating summer student, and none of these data were used in the paper.
In October, Kahn and Entingh-Pearsall issued corrections to a 2004 paper, also published in JBC and again because of figure errors. Here’s the correction for “Differential roles of the insulin and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) receptors in response to insulin and IGF-I:”
There were several errors in this paper that the authors wish to correct. In the corrected Fig. 1, the panel showing the IGF1KO cells has been deleted because it appears to be an incorrect image. As Fig. 2 contains three example clones of IGFRKO cell differentiation, the presence of the IGFRKO panel in Fig. 1, which was not referred to under the “Results,” was redundant. We have also added dashed lines to indicate that the image was a composite of different tissue culture dishes. In the experiments shown in Fig. 6, A and B, the samples were loaded sequentially on the same gel, and the same basal sample served as 0 nM ligand for both insulin and IGF-1 stimulation. To create the double panel figures used in the paper, therefore, the basal sample lane was duplicated and spliced next to the IGF-1 stimulated samples. To clarify the confusion that this has created, a vertical white line has been added to the corrected Fig. 6 to all of the IGF-1 panels to indicate that the unstimulated lane to the left of the line has been spliced in and is the same unstimulated sample as appears in the insulin panels. The experiments in Fig. 7, B and C, were performed in the same fashion as those in Fig. 6. Therefore, the basal lanes shown in the IGF-1-stimulated panels are the same as the insulin-stimulated panels. For clarification, vertical white lines have been added to these figures to indicate the area of vertical splicing. None of these clarifications has any effect on the results of the study or their interpretation.
Kaoru Sakabe—data integrity manager at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (which publishes JBC)—told us:
A reader brought these articles to our attention. The details for the correction and withdrawal may be found in the accompanying notices.
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