Highly cited Harvard stem cell scientist retracts Nature paper
Amy Wagers, an up and coming stem cell researcher at Harvard who made a name for herself as a postdoc early by questioning the work of others, has retracted a January 2010 paper she co-authored in Nature. According to the retraction:
Three of the authors (J.L.S., F.S.K. and A.J.W.) wish to retract this Article after a re-examination 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, specifically the role of osteopontin-positive niche cells in the rejuvenation of haematopoietic stem cells in aged mice. Although this matter is under further review, these authors wish to retract the paper in its entirety, and regret any adverse consequences that may have resulted from the paper’s publication. The retraction has not been signed by Shane R. Mayack, who maintains that the results are still valid.
As Technology Review reported when the study was first published:
In the experiment, Wagers and team surgically connected the circulatory systems of two mice, allowing older animals to be exposed to blood–and all the molecules and cells it carries– from young animals. They found that the procedure made the blood-forming stem cells in older animals act young again; the overall number of these cells decreased, and the cells generated different varieties of blood cells in more appropriate ratios. “In aged animals, many of the changes we see normally that are associated with age were reversed,” said Wagers.
The paper has been cited 13 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. The Boston Globe reports:
In a statement, Wagers said that she learned information that undermined her confidence in the conclusions and that she immediately notified Joslin, Harvard Medical School, and Nature.
“My primary concern has always been to ensure 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,’’ wrote Wagers, a principal faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
Wagers, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, was The Scientist‘s Scientist to Watch in January 2008 thanks to three of her papers that had been cited 101, 446, and 624 times. The magazine — where one of us, Ivan, was deputy editor until February 2008 — highlighted her reputation as a rigorous skeptic:
As a postdoc in Irving Weissman’s laboratory at Stanford University, Amy Wagers earned a reputation for putting other people’s findings to the test. In 2002 Wagers published evidence contrary to claims that bone marrow-derived stem cells could transdifferentiate into brain, muscle, and other tissues. 1 In 2004, she found that hematopoietic stem cells could not repair damaged myocardium, 2 despite other evidence that it could (Nature, 410:701-5, 2001). In 2006, Wagers’ data countered claims that circulating progenitors could replenish oocytes. While she says she didn’t intend to develop such notoriety, she says that putting others’ results to the test is important, even if the outcome is a long list of zeros. “I’m glad the journals are willing to publish negative data like that,” Wagers says.
In fact, the profile went on:
Though Wagers isn’t currently working on testing others’ claims, the term “wagerizing” has stuck in Weissman’s lab. “If we want to test if something is true, we wagerize it,” says Weissman.
Thanks to Alexey Bersenev for alerting us to this retraction, which did not appear in the embargoed Nature press materials for this week. [see update below] Whether journals publicize retractions that way was a theme of our coverage of the recent retractions by Nobelist Linda Buck.
Update, 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10/14/10: Nature Publishing Group’s head of press, Ruth Francis, tells us that the journal doesn’t include retractions in press-released materials. Also: Corrected date of original study in the first paragraph, which was January 2010, not January 2009. We regret the error.