Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘wrong reagents’ Category

We’re wasting a lot of research funding using the wrong cell lines. Here’s one thing we can do.

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If you could help reduce the waste of tens of billions of dollars per year in research spending, you’d do it, right?

This is the second in a series of two guest posts about the havoc misidentified cell lines can wreak on research, from Leonard P. Freedman, president of the Global Biological Standards Institute. Freedman who published a paper last summer detailing the financial costs of non-reproducible research — namely, tens of billions of dollars per year. Some of that non-reproducible research is due to the use of contaminated or misidentified cell lines. He writes about one key step to tackling the problem: Ask every scientist to use a relatively inexpensive technique to validate the identity of their cell lines.

Meanwhile, we have to deal with the issue of all the previously published papers that relied on problematic cell lines, now contaminating the scientific literature. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to take a poll on what you think should be done about those papers.

Leonard Freedman

Leonard Freedman

As new frontiers of science emerge, from Pluto to proteins, the very cornerstone of the scientific process—reproducibility—has also reared its head as a huge problem. Estimates of irreproducibility rates of published peer-reviewed papers range from 51% to 89%. An analysis that two colleagues and I recently published in PLOS Biology suggests the U.S. spends $28 billion per year on non-reproducible preclinical research; global spending could be up to $60 billion per year. This lack of reproducibility typically results from cumulative errors or flaws in one or more of the following areas: biological reagents and reference materials, study design, laboratory protocols, and data analysis and reporting. Given the size, scale, and especially the complexity of reproducing preclinical research, there is no single magic bullet fix. This is a difficult issue for scientists to own up to, and for the public to grasp.

However, an approach that has demonstrably addressed similar challenges in other complex and evolving industries, such as those involved in the founding of the Internet, is the expanded use of community-based voluntary standards and best practices. And here’s where we start: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 9th, 2015 at 11:30 am

Hundreds of researchers are using the wrong cells. That’s a major problem.

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Amanda Capes-Davis

Amanda Capes-Davis

What if we told you that approximately 1 in 6 researchers working with human cells are using the wrong cell line? In other words, they believe they are studying the effects of a drug on breast cancer cells, for instance, but what they really have are cells from the bladder. That is the unfortunate reality in life science research today, affecting hundreds of labs. It’s a major source of problematic papers which cannot be replicated, wasting scientists’ time and funding.

We’re pleased to present a guest post from Amanda Capes-Davis, chair of the International Cell Line Authentication Committee (ICLAC), a voluntary scientific committee created to improve awareness of misidentified cell lines. She also collects news about cell line and culture contamination. This is the first in a series of two posts from guest authors about how problematic cell lines are contaminating the scientific literature, and how we can clean it up.  

In 2010, I worked alongside Ian Freshney of Glasgow University and other colleagues to publish a list of cross-contaminated or otherwise misidentified cell lines in the International Journal of Cancer. This database of false cell lines is now curated by the International Cell Line Authentication Committee (ICLAC).

All of us who have contributed to the database are aware that cross-contamination is an important ongoing problem.  But I think the number of cell lines affected was a surprise, even to many of us in the field who see these problems on a daily basis. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

December 8th, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Authors retract highly cited Nature quantum dot letter after discovering error

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Authors have retracted a highly cited Nature letter that purported to discover a much sought-after, stable light source from quantum dots, after they realized the light was actually coming from another source: the glass the dots were affixed to.

When the paper “Non-blinking semiconductor nanocrystals” was published in 2009, it received some media coverage, such as in Chemistry WorldThat’s partly because very small sources of “non-blinking” light could have wide-ranging, big-picture applications, author Todd Krauss, a physical chemist at the University of Rochester, told us:

Off the top of my head, a quantum computer. Quantum cryptography is another one. People want a stable light source that obeys quantum physics, instead of classic physics.

The retraction note, published Wednesday, explains how the researchers found out the effect was coming from the glass, not quantum dots:

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Three retractions for geriatric medicine researcher

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Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 11.51.11 AMA trio of papers on health issues in elderly patients, all sharing an author, have been retracted from Geriatrics & Gerontology International. 

The reasons for the retractions range from expired kits, an “unattributed overlap” with another paper, “authorship issues,” and issues over sample sizes.

Tomader Taha Abdel Rahman, a researcher at Ain Shams University in Cairo, is the first author on two of the papers, and second author on the third.

Here’s the retraction note for a paper that showed elderly adults with chronic hepatitis C are at risk of having cognitive issues:

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Misidentified genetic sequence causes retraction of pathogen paper one month after publication

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Genome Announcements

The author of an article mapping the genome of an infectious bacterium is pulling the paper because — well, it wasn’t the bacterium she thought it was.

Study author Celia Abolnik is retracting her paper in Genome Announcements because it didn’t actually map out the DNA of Mycoplasma meleagridis, a bacterium that typically infects turkeys but has recently been found in chickens.

The trouble was, the sequence for Mycoplasma meleagridis in the National Institute of Health’s DNA database, Genbank, was actually a different variety of bacteria — Mycoplasma gallinaceum, another scourge of poultry.

Here’s the notice for “Complete Genome Sequence of Mycoplasma meleagridis, a Possible Emerging Pathogen in Chickens:”

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“Values were outside expected ranges”: Toxicology paper spiked after audit

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Toxicological PathologyResearchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have retracted a 2014 article after a review unearthed unresolved problems with the study’s control material.

The retracted paper, “Effect of Temperature and Storage Time on Sorbitol Dehydrogenase Activity in Sprague-Dawley Rat Serum and Plasma,” looked to test the durability and stability of sorbitol dehydrogenase, an enzyme used to detect cancerous liver damage in rats.

Here’s the complete retraction notice from Toxicologic Pathology :

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Written by Ross Keith

June 30th, 2015 at 11:30 am

Nature retraction, resignation result after lung cancer cell lines “cannot be those specified”

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cover_natureUpon realizing they had experienced a case of mistaken cell-line identity, the authors of a 2014 Nature paper on lung cancer think “it prudent to retract pending more thorough investigation,” as they explain in a notice published Wednesday.

The problem seems to stem from more than just honest error, according to corresponding author Julian Downward, a scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in the UK.

In a 1,215 word statement, sent to us via the Director of Research Communications and Engagement at Cancer Research UK, which funds Downward’s research, Downward told us the backstory not presented in the journal’s retraction note:

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Fungus among us, but what kind? Typing error spawns retraction for mushroom paper

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natprodresAs every mushroom lover knows, weekend mycology is no sport for the lily-livered. Tasty species often look awfully like their deadly cousins. Turns out, typing can even be problematic for the experts.

Natural Products Research is retracting a 2014 paper on shelf fungus because… well, it wasn’t about shelf fungus after all.

The paper, “Chemical constituents: water-soluble vitamins, free amino acids and sugar profile from Ganoderma adspersum,” was written by Ibrahim Kivrak, a food chemist at Mugla Sitki Kocman University in Mugla, Turkey. It analyzed the nutritional components of G. adspersum, and found, per the abstract:

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PNAS paper on dengue virus pulled due to contamination

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PNAS_ak11smThe authors of a paper on dengue virus vaccine design published last year in PNAS are retracting it after discovering that their experimental dengue virus was contaminated.

Although they are confident that the strategy is sound, the authors write in their commendably detailed retraction notice that the “inadvertent error” rendered the results “uninterpretable.”

Here’s the retraction notice: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alla Katsnelson

May 12th, 2015 at 9:30 am

Third structure slip-up for chemist in Korea yields retraction

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Chem_ak3Authors of a 2010 Chemistry – A European Journal article have retracted it “due to the wrong assignment of structure” of catalysts.

The retraction is the third, by our count, for corresponding author Doo Ok Jang, a chemist at Yonsei University in Wonju. Jang authored one of the previously retracted papers with Sung Jun Kim and the other with Sang Yoon Kim. Both papers were also sunk by misassigned structures.

The current study, “Enantioselective Radical Addition to Ketimines: A Synthetic Route Towards α,α-Disubstituted α-Amino Acids,” is authored by all three chemists. Here’s the retraction notice:

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