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The Boston Globe

Science

Harvard stem cell paper retracted

A paper in the journal Blood, which was called into question last year after Harvard stem cell scientist Amy Wagers reviewed the work and discovered “serious concerns” with the data, has been retracted.

The retraction was not signed by the lead author, Shane R. Mayack, a researcher who worked in Wagers’ laboratory and “who maintains that the results are valid,” according to the retraction.

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“Based on information discovered by the corresponding author [Wagers] after publication and reported by her to the journal in August 2010, which is now confirmed by a subsequent institutional investigation, this paper was found to contain duplicated data and other inappropriate manipulations,” the retraction states.

In a statement, Harvard Medical School dean for faculty and research integrity, Gretchen Brodnicki said, “We are fully committed to upholding the highest standards of ethics and to rigorously maintaining the integrity of our research. Any concerns brought to our attention are thoroughly reviewed in accordance with institutional policies and applicable regulations.”

The retracted paper reported how cells that make bone also play a role in regulating blood stem cells.

In October 2010, when a notice of concern was attached to the Blood study, another paper that examined aging and blood stem cells that had been published in the prestigious journal Nature was retracted. At the time, Wagers said in an e-mail to the Globe that she was committed to ensuring “the integrity of the scientific process and my research, and I have taken all appropriate steps to make certain that any errors in the record are fully corrected.”

That retraction states, “Three of the authors . . . wish to retract this article after a reexamination of the publication raised serious concerns with some of the reported data. These concerns have undermined the authors’ confidence in the support for the scientific conclusions reported.’’ Again, Mayack, the lead author, did not sign that retraction.

The retraction of the Blood study was reported by the blog, Retraction Watch, which also posted an essay by Mayack last year. In that essay, she defended the mistakes she made.

“The answer to that question begins with the fact that errors, not fabrications, were made in assembling figures for these manuscripts. I am likely the one who made these errors,” Mayack said.

“I believe these errors occurred due to mistakes made in data retrieval that were a cause of [sic] a poor, but not a unique, data management and archiving system.”

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.
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