A researcher at Tufts University has retracted a paper in Cell, a year after retracting a study on a similar subject from the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Here’s the notice for “SIRT1 Suppresses β-Amyloid Production by Activating the α-Secretase Gene ADAM10,” a 2010 paper by Tufts’ Gizem Donmez, MIT’s Leonard Guarante — of longevity research fame — and colleagues:
This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy).
This article has been retracted at the request of the authors. Donmez et al. (2010) reported that SIRT1 suppressed Alzheimer’s disease in a mouse model by upregulating the ADAM 10 α-secretase gene via coactivation of the retinoic acid receptor, RARβ. Increased α-secretase bypassed the processing of APP by the β-secretase, thereby reducing the amyloid burden. It has come to our attention that several figures in the paper contain images in which gel lanes were spliced together without appropriate indication. There are also instances of image duplication. We believe that these errors do not affect the conclusions of experiments in the paper. Moreover, the finding that SIRT1 upregulates the ADAM 10 α-secretase in neurons was reported by Theendakara et al. (Theendakara, V., et al. . Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110, 18303–18308), and the more detailed finding that SIRT1 and RARβ cooperate in neurons to activate ADAM 10 has also recently been reported by Lee et al. (Lee, H.R., et al. . J. Neurosci. Res. Published online June 5, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jnr23421), thereby supporting our main conclusions. However, the level of care in figure preparation in Donmez et al. falls well below the standard that we expect, and we are therefore retracting the paper. We offer our sincerest apologies to the scientific community for these errors and for any inconvenience they may have caused.
The paper has been cited 205 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
There’s a bit of a back story on this retraction, which Paul Brookes, who was behind the now-shuttered Science-Fraud.org and brought the issues to Cell‘s attention, describes in a January 2014 blog post. Excerpt:
In 2012, some problems came to light in three papers with a common author. One journal retracted the paper, albeit after much effort and with an opaque retraction notice. Another acknowledged the problems but refused to act and is now incommunicado. At the third journal there is reason to suspect an investigation may have been compromised by conflict-of-interest. Combined, these events do not speak highly to the manner in which journals handle these affairs. What’s more COPE guidelines appear to encourage such practices. Oh, and just to complicate things, the author of the papers threatened to sue me.
Cell had initially told Brookes, early this year, that
Despite some apparent superficial similarities, upon extensive examination we were unable to find any compelling evidence for manipulation or duplication in those panels and therefore are not taking any further action at this time.
Obviously, something changed. And in our experience, threatening to sue scientists who call attention to problems in one’s work — or threatening to sue us, for that matter — is never a good sign.