We’re following the case of a group that recently retracted a Nature Immunology paper for figure irregularities, soon after being forced to correct images in a Science paper for similar reasons.
The Nature Immunology paper, “The helminth product ES-62 protects against septic shock via Toll-like receptor 4–dependent autophagosomal degradation of the adaptor MyD88,” has been cited just twice since it appeared online in February 2011, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. The retraction notice, which appeared online on July 19:
The authors wish to note the following. Irregularities have been identified in some of the figures in this paper. The conclusions drawn from these data, that ES-62 protects against the development of pathology in the sepsis models and results in the induction of autophagy in macrophages, cannot be made. As these conclusions constitute major components of the paper, we wish to retract this paper.
This wasn’t the only set of “irregularities” in images for the group recently. In November 2010, Science replaced two figures that were included in the Supplementary Online Material of a June 4, 2010 paper by the group, “SphK1 Regulates Proinflammatory Responses Associated with Endotoxin and Polymicrobial Sepsis.”
A reader noted that something was wrong with Figure S5B. We requested the original gels and it was determined that the figures that were originally published had been manipulated in Photoshop to make the figure more visually appealing. Based on the gels that we received, we concluded that they confirmed the original results. We asked the authors to provide new figures.
The Science paper has been cited 28 times.
The corresponding author of both papers, Alirio Melendez, told us by email early last week that he was on medical leave, with intermittent access to email, but would respond as soon as he could. He is currently at the University of Liverpool, having left positions recently at the University of Glasgow and the National University of Singapore.
Please see an update on this post, in which Science has issued an Expression of Concern.