Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘cell biology’ Category

Caught Our Notice: Journals still (slowly) purging archives of bad cell line studies

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Via Wikimedia

Title: Tanshinone IIA Induces Apoptosis in Human Oral Cancer KB Cells through a Mitochondria-Dependent Pathway

What Caught Our Attention: Thousands of papers have relied on contaminated or wrong cell lines, a problem journals have not been particularly proactive in addressing. So far, only a few studies have been retracted for using misidentified cell lines. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison Abritis

January 11th, 2018 at 8:00 am

Caught Our Notice: After ORI flags a paper by former grad student, university flags another

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Via Wikimedia

Title: The L3MBTL3 Methyl-Lysine Reader Domain Functions As a Dimer

What Caught Our Attention: Six months ago, the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) determined that former graduate student Brandi Baughman had doctored 11 figures in a PLOS ONE article, which was retracted shortly after.  The PLOS ONE paper listed two affiliations for Baughman — the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC); now UNC has triggered a second retraction of a paper co-authored by Baughman, also due to research misconduct. Although the ORI notice makes no mention of this additional paper, the agency recently took a “targeted approach” by not issuing comprehensive findings of misconduct for one researcher, in order to conserve resources. Of course, sometimes universities make findings that don’t meet the ORI’s bar, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison Abritis

January 1st, 2018 at 8:00 am

Caught Our Notice: A retraction that is “useful for investigators”

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Via Wikimedia

Title:  Yeast CAF-1 assembles histone (H3-H4) 2 tetramers prior to DNA deposition

What Caught Our Attention: Informative retraction notices can be infrequent, but rarer still are notices that fulfill an oft-ignored function: To be a source of learning for others in the field. Here, the authors offer a nearly 800-word “detailed description of the issues” with “some observations that may be useful for investigators conducting similar studies.” These authors embraced the retraction process, carefully explaining their findings or the lack thereof, for each figure from their now-retracted paper.     Read the rest of this entry »

Caught Our Notice: Investigation finds “accidental mistakes” in PNAS stem cell paper

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Via Wikimedia

When Retraction Watch began in 2010, our co-founders Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus quickly realized they couldn’t keep up with the hundreds of retractions that appeared each year.  And the problem has only gotten worse — although we’ve added staff, the number of retractions issued each year has increased dramatically. According to our growing database, just shy of 1,000 retractions were issued last year (and that doesn’t include expressions of concern and errata). So to get new notices in front of readers more quickly, we’ve started a new feature called “Caught our Notice,” where we highlight a recent notice that stood out from the others. If you have any information about what happened, feel free to contact us at

Title: Combined hydrogels that switch human pluripotent stem cells from self-renewal to differentiation 

What caught our attention: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison Abritis

October 16th, 2017 at 8:30 am

Journal flags cancer paper from Karolinska researchers

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A journal has issued an expression of concern (EOC) for a 2011 cancer paper, while Karolinska Institutet investigates “concerns” about some of the data.

After the Journal of Cell Science (JCS) received a tip from a reader, it investigated, but was unable to resolve the concerns. So the journal asked KI–where all the authors work–to investigate further, and issued an EOC to alert readers that there may be an issue with the paper.

According to the notice, the questions center on data from Fig. 1A, but the notice does not specify the nature of the concerns. The 2011 paper received a correction in 2016, which cites inadvertent figure duplication.

Earlier this year, the paper’s last author Boris Zhivotovsky and second author Helin Vakifahmetoglu-Norberg retracted a 2008 paper from Oncogene over potential image duplication. That retraction caught our attention because it was prompted by a 2016 correction to the paper, which had raised additional questions about potential duplication; ultimately, the authors retracted both the paper and its correction.

Here’s the expression of concern for the 2011 JCS paper: Read the rest of this entry »

“Clumsy but genuine errors” prompt PNAS correction

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Some accidental mistakes have led researchers to issue a long correction to a 2016 PNAS paper.

According to the notice, when the cell biology paper’s corresponding authors became aware of duplications in two images, they immediately notified the journal and the University of Nottingham. After examining the original data archives, the university found that the authors generated the correct images, but the person who prepared the figures selected the wrong images from the data archive.

According to John Atherton, faculty pro-vice-chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham in the UK, who oversaw the investigation: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

June 1st, 2017 at 9:30 am

Former postdoc admitted to fraud in cell bio paper, lead author says

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A researcher in Switzerland has retracted her 2015 paper in the Journal of Cell Biology, saying the first author — her former postdoc — admitted to fabricating multiple aspects of the paper.

After Sophie Martin of the University of Lausanne couldn’t reproduce the data from another manuscript she was preparing to submit, she contacted her former student, Pranav Ullal, who admitted he had fabricated the data, along with two figures in the JCB paper.

A spokesperson for the University of Lausanne told us that Ullal left Switzerland after his contract was over, and is now in India.

Martin told us the whole experience has been upsetting:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alison McCook

February 21st, 2017 at 11:30 am

Journal pulls paper with missing data, citing inquiry and legal proceedings

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A journal has retracted a 2012 paper after the last author was unable to provide material to support the results presented in multiple figures.

The lack of supporting data came out during “an internal inquiry and subsequent legal proceedings,” according to the notice, issued by Cell Cycle.

The last author on the paper is Susana Gonzalez, who was dismissed from her position at the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Spain last year.

Here’s the full notice:

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EMBO journals retract figures in two papers missing source data

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Journals published by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) have retracted a handful of figures in two papers with the same last and first authors.

After some figures in the 2005 and 2007 papers were flagged on PubPeer and the authors couldn’t provide the original data, the journals decided to retract parts of the papers, since other data supported the remaining conclusions, according to the Head of Scientific Publications at EMBO.

The partial retractions are labeled as corrigenda by the journals. Earlier this year, the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) announced it would be classifying partial retractions as errata, noting they had been used so rarely by journals.

Both lengthy corrigenda (also reported by Leonid Schneider) contain statements from the authors and the editors. The statements from the authors provide detailed explanations about the problems with the figures in question; here’s an excerpt from the editor’s statement in The EMBO Journal corrigendum: Read the rest of this entry »

Nature Cell Bio paper may be headed for retraction

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ncbA Nature Cell Biology paper published only a few months ago by prominent researchers in Taiwan has sparked a heated discussion on PubPeer, which now includes a comment allegedly from an author saying they have requested its retraction.

Although a representative of the journal wouldn’t confirm to us that the authors had requested a retraction, the comment on PubPeer says the paper contains several figures that were “inappropriately manipulated” by the first author.

Here’s the full comment on PubPeer, tagged as coming from one of the authors of the paper:

Read the rest of this entry »