The FASEB Journal has retracted a 2012 paper by a group from the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), looking at the role of a tumor-suppressing micro-RNA in pulmonary fibrosis. The retraction suggests the provenance of the data are in question, and we learned details of what went wrong.
Here’s the notice, which, sadly, is behind a $12-per-day paywall:
The article, “miR-31 is a negative regulator of pulmonary fibrosis,” by Shanzhong Yang, Na Xie, Huachun Cui, Sami Banerjee, Edward Abraham, Victor J. Thannickal, and Gang Liu (FASEB J. 2012 Sep;26(9):3790–9. doi: 10.1096/fj.11-202366), has been retracted at the corresponding author’s request because it contained previously published data. All versions of the article have been removed from the journal’s web site and the authors regret any inconvenience caused by the retraction.
The paper’s fifth author, Edward Abraham, is a big name, having served as the chair of the UAB department of medicine. In May 2011, Abraham became the dean of the Wake Forest School of Medicine.
Although the retraction notice is vague, the issue involved the reuse of a control figure, according to senior author Gang Liu:
The experiments represented in Figure 9 in this retracted paper were designed to share the control groups with an earlier study from us (Figure 9, American Journal of Pathology, 2012, 180(2):484-93), because of similar nature of the two studies. Representative micrographs for each group were taken and saved in a common folder. When the manuscript was initially prepared, representative micrographs for the shared control groups that had been utilized by the AJP paper (Figure 9B-D, Con miR+saline and Con miR+BLM) were inadvertently selected again for this subsequent paper. Another set of representative images for the shared control groups should have been chosen for the paper. I found out this mistake when preparing for a presentation, reviewed this with all authors and informed the editor.
Liu said he intended to resubmit the retracted paper using an appropriate image.