Former Columbia postdoc faked Alzheimer’s research in Cell and Nature

cover_natureRyousuke Fujita, a former Columbia University postdoc who admitted to having faked the findings of a 2011 Cell paper in a retraction notice last year, also faked the results of a 2013 Nature paper, according to a new report from the Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

Fujita’s work, in conjunction with Asa Abeliovich, was widely hailed as a significant step forward, a way to turn skin cells into brain cells. But the story began falling apart when the Cell retraction said that he “acknowledged inappropriately manipulating image panels and data points, as well as misrepresenting the number of repeats performed.”

The ORI’s findings in the case also involve a 2013 Nature paper, “Integrative genomics identifies APOE ε4 effectors in Alzheimer’s disease,” and a paper never published. Fujita, according to the ORI:

…engaged in research misconduct by knowingly and intentionally fabricating and falsifying research in seventy-four (74) panels included in figures in Cell 2011, Nature 2013, and the unpublished manuscript. Respondent inflated sample numbers and data, fabricated numbers for data sets, manipulated enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) analysis, mislabelled immunoflourescent confocal images, and manipulated and reused Western blot images.

The Cell paper, “Directed conversion of Alzheimer’s disease patient skin fibroblasts into functional neurons,” has been cited 150 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, while the Nature paper has been cited 40. The Nature paper has not yet been retracted.

Fujita agreed to be excluded from NIH and other federal funding for three years, and to not serve on NIH peer review committees for the same amount of time.

We have been unable to determine Fujita’s whereabouts, but we have contacted Columbia for comment and will update with anything we learn.

Update, 10:45 a.m. ET, 4/6/15: Abeliovich tells us that his team has submitted a retraction to Nature. Columbia gave us this statement:

We recognize that the proper conduct of research is one of the most important responsibilities of a university. We deeply regret that one of our former employees engaged in research misconduct and that his misconduct affected two published scientific articles.


7 thoughts on “Former Columbia postdoc faked Alzheimer’s research in Cell and Nature”

    1. Would be interesting to hear the comments of the lab leader, first author, and others involved. Did they review the paper prior to sending it off?

  1. I do wonder sometimes about the consequences and severity of ORI exclusions for foreign researchers.

    1. Well, I guess in many countries, most researchers will have a really hard time getting any job in research after such a story, even if the ORI ban looks like almost nothing.

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