A group of authors from Emory University, has lost another paper for image manipulation, bringing their total to at least four. What makes this particularly interesting is that the main actor in the figure fakery, Lian Zuo, does not appear to have been involved this time.
Zuo, you may recall, was cited in multiple retraction notices back in 2011 after Emory investigators concluded that he appeared to have been fabricating figures. But, one of the notices, from Circulation Research, raised the possibility that someone else was implicated, too:
The Emory University Investigation Committee conducted an institutional investigation of fraudulent data published in Ushio-Fukai et al. Circ Res 2005;97:829–836. Emory University Office of Research Compliance reported that Dr. Lian Zuo admitted to the Emory University Investigation Committee to falsifying Figures 2A top panel, 3C top panel, 3C bottom panel, 4A top panel, 5B top panel right, 5B bottom panel left, and 5B bottom panel right. The Emory Investigation Committee reported it found evidence to conclude that the following figures were also falsified by Dr. Lian Zuo: 1A top and lower panels, 3A top panel, 3A second panel, 3A bottom panel, 3B bottom panel, 4C bottom panel, and 6A top and bottom panels. The Emory University Investigation Committee also reported it found Figures 2A bottom panel, 2B bottom panel, 3B top panel, 4B bottom panel, 4D bottom panel, 5A middle panel, and 6B bottom panel to be falsified, but the Committee was unable to determine who was responsible for the falsification.
The latest article appeared in 2001 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry — and Zuo is not among the authors. Titled “Cholesterol depletion inhibits epidermal growth factor receptor transactivation by angiotensin II in vascular smooth muscle cells. ROLE OF CHOLESTEROL-RICH MICRODOMAINS AND FOCAL ADHESIONS IN ANGIOTENSIN II SIGNALING,” and the authors were Masuko Ushio-Fukai, Lula Hilenski, Nalini Santanam, Peter L. Becker, Yuxian Ma, Kathy K. Griendling and R. Wayne Alexander. The paper has been cited 145 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
The retraction notice states:
The Emory University Investigation Committee found evidence of inappropriate image manipulation in Figs. 2A and 3 that caused misrepresentation of the data.
We spoke with Kristin West, a research compliance official at Emory, who told us that although the investigation into Luo is over, she couldn’t say anything about it.
We’ve done everything that we are supposed to do under our policy and under federal regulations.