Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Journal flags another paper by diabetes researcher who sued to stop retractions

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It would seem that resorting to legal means to avoid editorial notices doesn’t always work.

We’re coming to that conclusion after seeing yet another notice for Mario Saad, based at the University of Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil. In this case, it’s an expression of concern from the Journal of Endocrinology, on a 2005 paper that lists Saad as the second-to-last author. According to the notice, the journal is concerned the paper contains spliced and duplicated images; although the authors offered to repeat the experiments, the journal considered that potential delay “unacceptable.”

Despite Saad’s legal efforts, he is now up to 11 retractions, along with multiple expressions of concern.

Here’s the full text of the notice (which is paywalled, tsk tsk):

With the agreement of the Editor-in-Chief, the editorial board and the publisher Bioscientifica Ltd, the Journal of Endocrinology is publishing an Expression of Concern regarding an article that appeared in the journal in 2005, in volume 186 part 1, pages 193–201. The journal was alerted to the potential manipulation of Western blots in the figures outlined below. After investigation by journal staff, experts in the field and consultation with the authors, we could not rule out the possibility that the Western blots had been manipulated.

The similarity of the Western blots raises questions about the reliability of some of the data in the article. Repetition of experiments was proposed by the authors; however, the potential delay caused by this was deemed unacceptable by the Editor-in-Chief and the publisher.

The Editor-in-Chief and the publisher considered this issue carefully before agreeing that publication of an Expression of Concern was necessary. The journal has asked the corresponding authors’ institution to investigate this case:

Pereira-da-Silva M, De Souza CT, Gasparetti AL, Saad MJA & Velloso LA 2005 Melanin-concentrating hormone induces insulin resistance through a mechanism independent of body weight gain. Journal of Endocrinology 186 193–201. (doi:10.1677/joe.1.06111)

It appears that within Figure 4, the same lane has been used for the ‘without insulin’ result within bands 2, 3, 5 and 7, even though they represent different conditions.

Furthermore, it appears Figure 6 contains multiple immunoblots spliced together.

Melanin-concentrating hormone induces insulin resistance through a mechanism independent of body weight gain” has been cited 13 times since it was published in 2005, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

PubPeer users have raised questions about figure 4 of the paper.

The last author is Lício Velloso, also based at UNICAMP, and a previous co-author of Saad’s. Last year, Velloso retracted three papers (one of which included Saad), and took responsibility for accidentally mixing up images.

Velloso told us:

this is a 12 years old paper. We no longer have originals. NIH suggests 5 years for lab data keeping. The splices in that paper are clear. No one tried to hide any splice.

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