The authors of two Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) studies of the molecular underpinnings of hearts whose rhythms have gone awry have retracted the papers, for reasons that are not completely clear.
The two papers are “MicroRNA miR-133 represses HERG K+ channel expression contributing to QT prolongation in diabetic hearts,” published in 2007, and “Down-regulation of miR-1/miR-133 contributes to re-expression of pacemaker channel genes HCN2 and HCN4 in hypertrophic heart,” published in 2008.
This being the JBC, the retraction notices in the August 12, 2011 issue say nothing:
This article has been withdrawn by the authors.
The papers have had some impact: The 2007 article has been cited 126 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, while the 2008 study has been cited 76.
So why were the papers retracted? One of the corresponding authors, the Montreal Heart Institute’s Zhiguo Wang, tells Retraction Watch:
We noticed some mistakes in the Western blot band images shown in these papers. These mistakes do not invalidate our results and conclusions, and we and others have been able to reproduce the data reported in these papers.
That doesn’t sound like the entire story to us. After all, if there were mistakes that “do not invalidate [the] results and conclusions,” why not just issue a correction? We asked some follow-up questions, but haven’t heard back.
Indeed, the response to our questions from Wang’s department chair, Jean-Claude Tardif, suggests there’s a bit more going on:
We are aware and are still investigating.
Wang also has an appointment at the University of Montreal, and is listed as
senior research scholar of the Fonds de Recherche en Sante de Quebec, a ChangJiang scholar professor, and a LongJiang scholar professor of China.
His co-authors include a second corresponding author from the State-Province Key Laboratories of Biomedicine-Pharmaceutics of China and Harbin Medical University, also in China. We have tried reaching him for comment, and will update with anything we hear back.
In the meantime, the PDFs of both papers are both available, with big “withdrawn” stamps that cover some of the Western blots, but perhaps an astute Retraction Watch reader can have a look and figure out what’s wrong with them.
Please see an update on this story.
Hat tip: Uwe Vinkemeier