Harvard diabetes researcher retracts third paper

A prominent diabetes researcher based at Harvard Medical School has retracted a third paper, citing manipulation of multiple figures.

Late last year, Carl Ronald Kahn—also chief academic officer at Joslin Diabetes Center—retracted two papers for similar reasons. In November, Kahn pulled a 2005 paper from The Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI) and a month later, he retracted a 2003 paper from The Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), both times citing duplications that the authors said were introduced while assembling the figures.

Last month, Kahn retracted his third paper, also published in JBC in 2003, because the authors omitted data when constructing the images. Still, the authors remain confident in their findings, given that data from other labs “have confirmed and extended the conclusions of the manuscript.”

Here’s the retraction notice:

This article has been withdrawn by the authors. In many of the experiments reported in this study, cells from mice of four genotypes were used (wild-type, p85α−/−, p85α+/−, and p85β−/−), but data from only three of the genotypes (wild-type, p85α−/−, and p85β−/−) were included in the final paper. As a result, there was splicing of the figures of several autoradiograms, which led to several duplicated or mislabeled lanes in the Western blots in Figs. 2B, 3C, and 5B. Although the experimental data generated in the lab from the same time period support the original conclusions of the study, and the studies by this lab and others have confirmed and extended the conclusions of the manuscript, in the interest of maintaining accuracy in the published scientific literature and because the initial figures were not up to the standards of JBC, the authors wish to withdraw this article. The authors apologize for these errors.

“Positive and negative roles of p85α and p85β regulatory subunits of phosphoinositide 3-kinase in insulin signaling” has been cited 146 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

We reached out to Kahn for further details on how the duplication occurred.

Kaoru Sakabe—data integrity manager at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (which publishes JBC)—told us that a reader alerted them to the issues.

In 2015, a user on PubPeer flagged potential issues with several figures in this paper.

Other papers by Kahn have received corrections and many have been questioned on PubPeer. We’ve covered eight corrections for Kahn (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). We’ve noted two other errata for Kahn (9, 10). Kahn and co-authors received a 2009 erratum for a 2009 study in Cell Metabolism because of “several errors in the figure labeling” as well as a 2007 corrigendum for a study in JCI, published that year, citing figure manipulation.

One of the co-authors on the latest retraction is Lewis C. Cantley, a cancer biologist based at Weill Cornell Medical College. Cantley is credited with the discovery of a signaling pathway essential for the growth and survival of normal and cancerous cells, research which won him the coveted $3 million inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in 2013.

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16 thoughts on “Harvard diabetes researcher retracts third paper”

  1. RE: erratum number 10.
    For figure 4. There are other problematic figures. Please see below.
    J Clin Invest. 2007 Aug;117(8):2289-301.
    Muscle-specific knockout of PKC-lambda impairs glucose transport and induces metabolic and diabetic syndromes.
    Robert V. Farese,1,2,3 Mini P. Sajan,1,2,3 Hong Yang,1,2,3 Pengfei Li,1,3 Steven Mastorides,1 William R. Gower, Jr.,1,3 Sonali Nimal,1,2,3 Cheol Soo Choi,4 Sheene Kim,4 Gerald I. Shulman,4 C. Ronald Kahn,5 Ursula Braun,6,7 and Michael Leitges6,7
    1James A. Haley Veterans Medical Center, Tampa, Florida, USA. 2Roskamp Institute, Sarasota, Florida, USA. 3Department of Internal Medicine and Department of Molecular Medicine, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida, USA. 4Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. 5Joslin Research Foundation and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 6Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany. 7Biotechnology Centre of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.


    Figure 2A.

    Figure 2B.

    Figure 1F.

  2. J Clin Invest. 2001 Oct 15; 108(8): 1205–1213.
    doi: 10.1172/JCI13103

    Brown adipose tissue–specific insulin receptor knockout shows diabetic phenotype without insulin resistance
    Carmen Guerra,1 Paloma Navarro,2 Angela M. Valverde,2 Monica Arribas,2 Jens Brüning,3 Leslie P. Kozak,1 C. Ronald Kahn,3 and Manuel Benito2
    1Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Minnesota, USA2Departamento de Bioquimica y Biologia Molecular, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain3Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
    Address correspondence to: Manuel Benito, Departamento de Bioquímica y Biologia Molecular, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad Complutense, Madrid 28040, Spain.


    Figure 3c.

    Figure 4b.

  3. Mol Cell Biol. 2001 Apr; 21(7): 2269–2280.
    doi: 10.1128/MCB.21.7.2269-2280.2001
    PMCID: PMC86861
    Association of Insulin Receptor Substrate 1 (IRS-1) Y895 with Grb-2 Mediates the Insulin Signaling Involved in IRS-1-Deficient Brown Adipocyte Mitogenesis
    Angela M. Valverde,1 Cecilia Mur,1 Sebastián Pons,2,† Alberto M. Alvarez,3 Morris F. White,2 C. Ronald Kahn,2 and Manuel Benito1,*
    Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, Centro Mixto CSIC/UCM, Facultad de Farmacia,1 and Centro de Citometría de Flujo y Microscopía Confocal,3 Universidad Complutense, 28040 Madrid, Spain, and Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts2
    *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, Centro Mixto CSIC/UCM, Facultad de Farmacia, Ciudad Universitaria, 28040 Madrid, Spain. Phone: 34-91-3941777. Fax: 34-91-3941779. E-mail: se.mcu.mis.xamcue@otineb.
    †Present address: Instituto de Neurobiología Cajal, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 28002 Madrid, Spain.


    Figure 5B.

  4. J Biol Chem. 2003 Mar 21;278(12):10221-31. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M209363200

    Insulin-induced Up-regulated Uncoupling Protein-1 Expression Is Mediated by Insulin Receptor Substrate 1 through the Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase/Akt Signaling Pathway in Fetal Brown Adipocytes*
    Angela M. Valverde‡, Mónica Arribas‡, Cecilia Mur‡, Paloma Navarro‡, Sebastián Pons§, Anne-Marie Cassard-Doulcier¶, C. Ronald Kahn§ and Manuel Benito‡‖
    – Author Affiliations

    From the ‡Departamento de Bioquı́mica y Biologı́a Molecular, Centro Mixto Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientı́ficas/Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad Complutense, 28040 Madrid, Spain, §Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, and ¶Centre de Recherches sur l’Endocrinologie Moléculaire et le Dévelopment, CNRS, 92190 Meudon, France.


    Figure 7C.

  5. Diabetes. 2002 Mar;51(3):743-54.
    Increased insulin sensitivity in IGF-I receptor–deficient brown adipocytes.
    Cecilia Mur1, Angela M. Valverde1, C. Ronald Kahn2 and Manuel Benito1
    – Author Affiliations

    1Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, Centro Mixto CSIC/UCM, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain
    2Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.


    Figure 8.

    Figure 4.

  6. Mol Cell Biol. 2004 Jun;24(11):5080-7.
    Increased insulin sensitivity and reduced adiposity in phosphatidylinositol 5-phosphate 4-kinase beta-/- mice.
    Lamia KA1, Peroni OD, Kim YB, Rameh LE, Kahn BB, Cantley LC.
    Author information

    Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard Institutes of Medicine, Division of Signal Transduction, 10th Floor, 330 Brookline, MA 02215, USA.

    Figure 2.

    1. Did you highlight this one because of Cantley, or because of Kahn? In case of the latter, note this is a different Kahn.

  7. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Oct 29;93(22):12490-5.
    Cross-talk between the insulin and angiotensin signaling systems.
    Velloso LA1, Folli F, Sun XJ, White MF, Saad MJ, Kahn CR.
    Author information

    Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Campinas-UNICAMP, Campinas, Brazil.


    Figure 5. http://i.imgur.com/3GtKLte.jpg

    Penultimate author: http://retractionwatch.com/2017/05/18/journal-flags-two-papers-diabetes-researcher-sued-stop-retractions-now-12/

  8. Nat Genet. 2002 May;31(1):111-5. Epub 2002 Apr 1.
    beta-cell-specific deletion of the Igf1 receptor leads to hyperinsulinemia and glucose intolerance but does not alter beta-cell mass.
    Kulkarni RN1, Holzenberger M, Shih DQ, Ozcan U, Stoffel M, Magnuson MA, Kahn CR.
    Author information

    Research Division, Joslin Diabetes Center, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, One Joslin Place, Boston Massachusetts 02215, USA.

    Figure 4. https://imgur.com/6ILCFqk

  9. 2019 Expression of Concern for C Ronald Kahn paper.

    Original citation: J Clin Invest. 2001;108(8):1205–1213. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI13103

    Citation for this Expression of Concern: J Clin Invest. 2019;129(1):437. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI126191

    A reader recently contacted the Editors regarding possible duplication of portions of the images presented in Figure 3, A–C, and Figure 4, A and B, that were used to represent distinct samples. The Editors have requested that the corresponding author provide the original data supporting these figures; however, these data are no longer available. As we are unable to evaluate the integrity of these figures, we are publishing this notice to alert readers to the concern.

    The corresponding author dissents from the JCI’s decision to issue this Expression of Concern.


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