Another correction appears for husband-wife team found to have manipulated images

insectAlejandra Bravo and Mario Soberon, a wife-husband research team at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) who received sanctions — later lifted — for manipulating images in a number of papers have corrected another article.

The paper, “The mitogen-activated protein kinase p38 is involved in insect defense against Cry toxins from Bacillus thuringiensis,” appeared in Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2010 and has been cited 23 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Here’s the correction notice:

The authors regret that Figure 1 and Figure 3 were edited without making clear that some of the images were merged images that came from different gels. The corrected Figure 1 and Figure 3 composed of original blots or replicas of the same experiments now makes clear that some of the images came from different gels. This correction does not affect the conclusions of the paper. The authors would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.

soberon 1Fig. 1.

Fig. 1.

Phosphorylation of MAPK p38 in insects after intoxication with Cry toxins. Panel A, first instar Manduca sexta larvae were intoxicated with 2 ng/cm2 (LC50) or 20 ng/cm2 Cry1Ab for up to 1 h. M. sexta larvae were also treated 1 h with the non-toxic mutant Cry1Ab-R99E affected in oligomerization and pore formation. Panel B, fourth instar Aedes aegypti larvae were fed an LC50 of Cry11Aa toxin or the non-active mutant Cry11Aa-R90E. The presence of phosphorylated and total MAPK p38 proteins was analyzed by western blot using specific antibodies. The blots presented here are representative figures of three independent experiments. Numbers under the blots are percentage in relation to the control band (no toxin or time 0, which was considered as 100%), after scanning the bands. Ph-p38, phosphorylated MAPK p38; p38, total MAPK p38.

soberon 2Fig. 3.

Silencing of MAPK p38 by RNAi in Manduca sexta and Aedes aegypti larvae. MAPK p38 expression was silenced by feeding dsRNA to M. sexta and A. aegypti larvae. Panel A, The presence of total MAPK p38 protein was analyzed by western blot assays using specific antibodies. Panel B, The expression of MAPK p38 gene was analyzed by RT-PCR assays. Numbers under the bands are percentage in relation to the control band, after densitometry analysis. The control bands correspond to non-silenced larvae, which were labeled with a C and were considered as 100%.

The university’s findings referred to eleven papers. This is the third correction we’ve seen.

7 thoughts on “Another correction appears for husband-wife team found to have manipulated images”

  1. “The university’s findings referred to eleven papers. This is the third correction we’ve seen”.
    Hey, give them some time they have ALL THOSE experiments to rerun properly! Sheesh, at least they got over the hassle of publish them already…

  2. As my moniker suggest, I’m not hot stuff when it comes to western blots, so I’m happy to be corrected. So can anyone explain why, if the original figures were just undeclared mosaic images, that the authors didn’t just separate out the lanes in the original figures? Why repeat gels and put new blot sections into the new figures? I see no need to replace data here. Curious.

    And again, it strikes me as unusual that quantitative densitometric comparisons are being presented among bands from different gels. However if this is now an acceptable practice then I stand corrected, and will no longer wonder how on earth this got past the editors of the journal, and will no longer compare the list of authors on this correction to the list of editors for this journal and will lower my eyebrows.

    1. If I read this post correctly, the experiments were not repeated, but rather the figures were recreated from the original data with added white space to show which lanes are from different gels.

      As for the quantitation, I would never believe any quantitation of westerns. You can see that the data presented in these figures is of low quality. Who can say whether this paper is revealing something of importance? That’s an issue for the journal and reviewers (and readers who wish to use this data for their own work).

      1. “The corrected Figure 1 and Figure 3 composed of original blots or replicas of the same experiments” seems to suggest otherwise.

        This is confirmed by comparing the original figures to the corrected figures. There are completely new bands in the corrected figures.

        As for your last point, are you suggesting that the integrity of the data is irrelevant, and the only criteria for judging it is the importance of what it purports to say? Data can be low, medium or high quality in terms of impact, relevance to society etc, but if it is manipulated and of questionable providence, then it is no value whatsoever, quite the contrary, it is indeed dangerous. Especially this group’s work is high profile with regards to insect-resistant transgenic crop research. This “data” may be appearing on your dinner plate before too long.

        1. “This is confirmed by comparing the original figures to the corrected figures. There are completely new bands in the corrected figures.”

          I didn’t go that far to look at the originals. I had taken the correction notice to mean that both the original and corrected figures took data from original and replicate westerns. I thought that the only change was adding white space.

          The fundamental issue is that we have no choice but to believe what someone says a sample or image represents. Even if you can see that a gel has not been manipulated, you have no way of knowing that the samples loaded into the lanes are what the authors say they are.

          For my quantitation comment, I wasn’t clear. I thought that the quantification was added to make bad westerns easier to interpret and more convincing, but that I would never trust quantification of westerns. I was taking the view that bad data may be worth publishing because even though it is of low quality is may be the best available data in some field.

          What I am really trying (failing) to say is that the scientific method does not depend on whether this group or that group is telling the truth or behaving ethically. Rather it turns on whether other groups, doing similar or complementary experiments, get results that agree or conflict with the published results.

  3. Again with these researchers? So, after rerunning the WB they realized this issue? So, does this mean that they are acknowledging this misconduct? So, they modify their results? So, teach me how do I need to properly understand this sentence ” same experiments now makes clear that some of the images came from different gels”. Shame on them! shame on the university that exonerated them!

    Please, this outcry is for those agencies, national or from abroad: STOP FUNDING THIS TYPE OF STUFF! Science is rotting itself due to the terrible fact that this type of investigation gets published. To those who bear the really important post as editor of any journal…. If you receive an article that present the name of researches with dubious (fancy word!) reputation, be very suspicious and ask other reputable researches to confirm findings. If such results do not match, well, reject the article, plain and simple. I am so tired to read an article, for example, in the medical field to know later that is retracted. Do you want to hear an example:

    What about the use of wine as a prevention measure for cardiovascular disease? Have you heard about the deceased Dipak Das? The researcher published about resveratrol many articles, and we were informed last month, after his passing away that 19 of his articles were retracted, due to misconduct findings! And there were thousands of doctors that were “advising” or “suggesting” their patients to drinks red wine because of its cardioprotective properties…

    Who else is responsable here? The editors of the magazines that accepted and published their results? The late findings from the internal university investigation? The companies that provided funds for his investigations? People that knew the truth and decided to remain “mutis”? This is criminal activity, with many angles: fraud, misuse of economic resources, criminal association, etc….

    It is well seen that some universities are taking the proper steps to resolve this. But the rest of researches, have the duty to report when something stinks…

    My 3 dollars and 2 cents.

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