Study by prominent Brigham scientists retracted due to compromised data

Posted: April 10, 2014 at 1:41 am

A Brigham and Womens Hospital stem cell study, which raised the possibility that the human heart could repair itself, has been retracted after an internal investigation showed the researchers used compromised data.

The retraction comes just a week after a Japanese scientist was accused of fabricating data in a major stem cell paper that was led by a different Brigham scientist.

The authors of the retracted paper claimed they had found evidence that heart muscle can regenerate at a higher rate than previously thought. The work was part of a broad effort to discover the bodys natural regenerative abilities and harness them to create therapies that could repair damaged or diseased hearts.

The paper, published in 2012 in the journal Circulation, was withdrawn Tuesday by the journals publisher, the American Heart Association. An ongoing institutional review by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Womens Hospital has determined that the data are sufficiently compromised that a retraction is warranted, the journal said.

This retraction is highly significant. In my 30 years in cardiovascular science I cannot recall a paper of similar prominence being retracted from Circulation, Dr. Charles Murry, codirector of the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Washington, wrote in an e-mail. This appears to settle the controversy about the rate of cell replacement in the human heart.

Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, chief science officer for the American Heart Association, said that the journal received the retraction request from Harvard Medical School, in a letter that described concerns about several figures in the paper. She declined to elaborate on what the specific problems were.

The journals retraction notice does not specify whether the data irregularities were accidental or intentional, or which researchers were at fault. The authors include several high-profile scientists, including Dr. Piero Anversa, a cardiologist whose research has often raised questions from other scientists, and Dr. Joseph Loscalzo, chief of medicine at the Brigham.

Robertson said that based on the information provided by Harvard, the Heart Association did not have concerns about the role Loscalzo played in the paper. Loscalzo is the editor of the journal Circulation and recused himself from the retraction process, she said.

The study was supported by funds from the National Institutes of Health. In 2013, Anversas lab received $6.9 million from the agency, according to an NIH website. The federal Office of Research Integrity, which reviews allegations of scientific misconduct on federally sponsored research, said because of privacy reasons, it could not confirm or deny an investigation.

The key authors of the paper did not respond to direct requests for comment, and a Brigham spokeswoman declined to make them available. The hospital released a statement saying, Any questions, concerns, or allegations regarding research conducted at BWH are confidentially evaluated per the hospitals policies and federal regulations.

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Study by prominent Brigham scientists retracted due to compromised data

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