University vice president for research contests retraction for image issues

Jaydutt Vadgama

A university vice president has received his first retraction – and disagrees with it, according to the journal. 

The retraction for Jaydutt Vadgama, the Vice President for Research and Health Affairs at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, comes after a commenter on PubPeer noted similarities between data in two papers from the same group. Similar comments have led to corrections to two other papers by Vadgama, who is also professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles.

The retracted article, “A83-01 inhibits TGF-β-induced upregulation of Wnt3 and epithelial to mesenchymal transition in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells,” appeared in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment in 2017. It has been cited 38 times, according to Clarivate’s Web of Science. 

The retraction notice, published this month, states: 

After publication, concerns were raised regarding image overlap with the authors’ earlier article [1] and highly similar bands in the western blot images presented in the figures. Specifically:

  • Figure 1d Twist, E-Cadherin and β-actin blots appear highly similar to the same proteins in Fig. 3a of [1];
  • Figure 3d α-Tubulin blot appears highly similar to the same protein in Fig, 4c of [1];
  • A number of bands in Figs. 1d, 2c, 2d, 3a, 3b, 3d, 4b, 4c, 5a, 5d and S2 appear to be duplicated.

Additionally, in Fig. 5b, the 4 h images for pSmad3 and pSmad3/DAPI don’t seem to correspond to the same area, and two nuclei in the pSmad3/DAPI image appear highly similar.

The Editor-in-Chief therefore no longer has confidence in the presented data.

In April 2023, PubPeer user “Actinopolyspora biskrensis” raised concerns about “possible data reuse between papers, as well as possibly duplicated signals.” 

The authors responded, and posted photos of what they said were the original gels:

Thank you for your interest in our research and being critical of the figures. We wish to reassure the commentator that there is NO data reuse between the two papers identified, even though the loading controls β-actin and α-Tubulin look similar under each blot. The first author is the primary lead investigator who conducted the studies, while the last author is the senior author and PI whose grants have funded this study. All of our data presented in the papers were produced several times by different individuals in the lab. We made sure that the data were reproduced with accuracy and reproducibility. 

Actinopolyspora responded once again:

I am unable to locate the published bands in these images, with one exception. 

The authors didn’t respond to this comment, also from April 2023. The paper’s retraction came over a year later. 

Vadgama has not responded to our request for comment, nor has first author Yanyuan Wu. Both did “not agree to this retraction,” according to the notice. 

Many of Vadgama’s other papers have comments on PubPeer questioning the validity of images, which commenters have claimed appear to be repeated, overlaid, or superimposed. 

Some PubPeer comments on Vadgama’s articles have spurred corrections. The journal Cancers issued a correction last April to a paper after first author Pranabananda Dutta said “an inadvertent error” resulted in the same image being used twice with slightly altered brightness. In another case, after Actinopolyspora biskrensis raised concerns of image splicing, horizontal stretching, and duplication, study author Nalo Hamilton admitted the image was “inadvertently duplicated” and the International Journal of Molecular Sciences issued a correction

Vadgama and a coauthor admitted mistakes or said they were looking into the issues raised for two other papers, which have yet to be corrected.

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4 thoughts on “University vice president for research contests retraction for image issues”

  1. The President of the Dental School, National and Kapodistrian Univeristy of Athens, Greece seems to have surpassed this example, as he was elected and remains in its position, despite being the first and equally responsible author in a paper retracted for “falsification/fabrication of data, falsification/fabrication of results, misconduct by author” (as appear in Retraction Watch).

    1. “Vadgama, who is also professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles.”

      Reminds me of James Economou also at University of California, Los Angeles, and a vice chancellor for research (vice president for research, like Vadgama, or vice chancellor for research, like James Economou, what’s the difference?). Perhaps they are “inadvertently very similar:

      “Image duplications and unsupported data continue to plague a network of cancer researchers that includes the former vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Los Angeles, James Economou. On July 2, the editors at Cancer Research retracted a 2011 paper that Economou published as last author, saying it suffered from image duplication…”

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