The Niche

Fake Data for Flexible Stem Cells; Funding Falling Flat for Stem-Cell Facility

Credit crunch hurts California stem-cell facility

When the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine granted $271 million for building new laboratories, it had a few conditions. One was that research institutions had to come up with matching funds (see yesterday’s post on funds to Stanford). But one of the awardees, the Buck Institute for Age Research, has blamed the credit crunch for a stall in securing its share of the funds, according to an article in GenomeWeb. According to the article, nine of the grant recipients report that their building projects are moving ahead, and CIRM says it is too early to assess whether it should extend the deadline by which buildings must be completed.

Falsified data

Years before news that human skin cell could be reprogrammed to a state as powerful as embryonic stem cells, enthusiasm centered on potentially powerful cells in the bone marrow termed MAPCs (multipotent adult progenitor cells). Excitement dimmed when other researchers were unable to replicate the results. (This stands in sharp contrast to the reprogramming work, which has been repeated in multiple labs in multiple countries.) Now, a panel at the University of Minnesota reports that data was falsified in several figures. The investigation cleared the lead investigator in the lab, Catherine Verfaillie who is still retains a part-time U of M position but is now at the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium, and the blame falls to a graduate student in the lab.

The story was first reported in New Scientist, which had previously brough attention to discrepancies.

The University has asked that an article published in Blood be retracted and notes discrepancies but not falsification in another article in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Other peer-reviewed articles are not mentioned in the materials made available to the media. (Nature issued a correction on related work in June last year, though authors say conclusions are still valid. See Flawed data in multipotent cell study and Stem-cell paper corrected.)

Here is an excerpt from the U of M statement:

In four of seven figures in the Blood paper, the panel concluded that aspects of the figures were altered in such a way that the manipulation misrepresented experimental data and sufficiently

altered the original research record to constitute falsification under federal regulations and University policy. Manipulations identified by the panel included: elimination of bands on blots, altered orientation of bands, introduction of lanes not included in the original figure, and covering objects or image density in certain lanes.

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