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Author Admits Data Manipulation, Journal Retracts Paper

04/11/2012
David Pittman

A Japanese researcher has admitted to manipulating data and images in a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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After a Japanese researcher admitted to manipulating data and images in a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2010, the journal has retracted the paper.

In the retracted paper, researchers from Kanazawa University in Kanazawa, Japan, reportedly found that by blocking a specific protein receptor, the hardening of the arteries in mice was reduced. Specifically, the paper reported that the genetic deletion of the sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) receptor S1PR2 or the inhibition of the same protein through drugs reduced the symptoms of arthrosclerosis in mice on a high-cholesterol diet. S1P is a blood-based lipid mediator, particularly for high-density lipoproteins, or “good” cholesterol.

After a Japanese researcher admitted to manipulating data and images—including this figure—in a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2010, the journal has retracted the paper. Source: Journal of Clinical Investigation





In less than two years, the paper had been cited more than 20 times, according to Google Scholar. As a result of the paper, S1P has become a new potential therapeutic target for hardened arteries and other negative outcomes of a high-cholesterol diet.

In January, the Journal of Clinical Investigation published a “Notice of Concern” regarding the 2010 paper. In this statement, the journal’s editors reported that several figures appeared to be inaccurately portrayed and that the authors could not furnish raw data.

Apparently, as a result of this inquiry, first author Fei Wang, from the Department of Physiology at the university, then admitted sole responsibility to altering data and figures in the 2010 paper. In total, he confessed to seven instances of manipulation in the images that supported the paper’s conclusions. The retraction notice also states authors were unable to provide raw data used in more than a dozen figures.

In light of Wang’s admission, the authors requested that the journal retract the paper. The formal retraction was published March 1, 2012 (1).

“This is what we believe we should have done as early as possible after we had known the problem about our JCI article,” wrote lead authors Yoh Takuwa and Yasuo Okamoto in an email to BioTechniques. “We are also very sorry for this problem.”

In addition, they maintained that the original paper’s conclusion remains valid, referring to a study from another lab that was published in February 2012 in the Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology (2).

In addition to the retracted paper, Wang has also co-authored two other papers related to S1P and cardiovascular disease with Takuwa and Okamoto.

Wang and Kanazawa University did not respond to a request for comment.

References

  1. Wang, F., Y. Okamoto, I. Inoki, K. Yoshioka, W. Du, X. Qi, N. Takuwa, K. Gonda, Y. Yamamoto, et al. 2010. Sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor-2 deficiency leads to inhibition of macrophage proinflammatory activities and atherosclerosis in apoE-deficient mice. The Journal of Clinical Investigation 120(11):3979-3995.
  2. Shimizu, T., A. De Wispelaere, M. Winkler, T. D'Souza, J. Caylor, L. Chen, F. Dastvan, J. Deou, A. Cho, et al. 2012. Sphingosine-1-Phosphate receptor 3 promotes neointimal hyperplasia in mouse Iliac-Femoral arteries. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology (February).

Keywords:  retraction clinical