Where’s the data? Authors can’t support figures in 2017 kidney paper

Researchers have retracted a 2017 paper exploring a novel approach to treat kidney injury, because three images were “constructed inappropriately.”

That’s about as much as we know: The retraction notice provides few details about the nature of the issue, only that the authors—most of whom work at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey—could not provide the original data for the recently published figures.

The paper, published in American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology, was retracted October 1, just over four months after appearing online in mid-May.

While at Penn State, the paper’s corresponding author Alaa Awad received more than $1 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health for his work exploring the role of the enzyme arginase in diabetic nephropathy and end stage renal disease (including the research from the 2017 paper). In 2013, Awad was also awarded $765,000 by healthcare company Novo Nordisk for his research on treatments for diabetic kidney disease.

Here’s the notice for “Arginase-2 mediates renal ischemia-reperfusion injury:”

In this article, Figs. 2E, 7, and 14 have been constructed inappropriately, and the original data for images in Figs. 2E, 7 and 14 could not be provided. Therefore, the article is being retracted at the request of all the authors. The authors apologize to the scientific community for any inconvenience caused by this publication.

The 2017 paper has only been cited by the notice, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

A spokesperson for the American Physiological Society, which publishes the journal, declined to comment on “any perceived or actual ethical infractions” related to the paper.

Candice Yekel, associate vice president for research at Penn State, also refused to “share any details related to allegations (or if we received any such allegations) as this process is confidential.”

We reached out to Awad, who now works at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, but did not hear back.

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2 thoughts on “Where’s the data? Authors can’t support figures in 2017 kidney paper”

  1. “have been constructed inappropriately”. This kind of explanation is also inappropriate and not acceptable. Did they fabricated data? How and to what extent? This is not acceptable to do something wrong and just retract the paper and leave everything vague. The authors are expected to give a clear explanation about what really happened. Are all those wasted public funds are returned?

  2. It appears that in Figure 7 the ARG2+/+ IRI Macrophages panel is identical to the ARG2-/- IRI T-Cells panel. It further appears that in Figure 14 the image in the 10000X Vehicle Sham panel overlaps with the image in the 10000X BEC Sham panel (there is a rightward shift in the frame).

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