Friday, March 30, 2007

Stem cells here, stem cells there, stem cells everywhere...
The Minnesota Daily weighs in

The folks at the Daily have gotten around to the topic. In haste someone appears to have forgotten the spelling checker. AlexBonzo, who used to work for the Arizona Wildcat, will be teasing me about this.

Doubts raised over U study

A magazine claimed to have discovered discrepencies [sic] in a scientist's studies.

For the second time in the past year, serious questions are surfacing about the work of a prominent University stem cell scientist.

According to Peter Aldhous, the magazine's San Francisco bureau chief, while analyzing a 2001 Verfaillie paper printed in the medical journal Blood and a patent application approved in 2006, the publication discovered three images that seemed to have been duplicated between the two.

"What appears to be the case is that there were three occasions where there is a gel described, in the paper Blood published in 2001, where the same image is in the patent. But in the patent, it is supposed to be describing a different protein, and in most cases a different experiment," Aldhous said.

Timothy Mulcahy, University vice president for research, said the images appear similar, but the University is reserving judgment until an investigation is completed.

"Admittedly, if you look at it quickly, they could be the same, and they may be," he said. "And if they are, it begs the question how the same figure got used representing three different things of three different natures."

"We are being completely objective in this, so at this time we're not presuming one thing or another," Mulcahy said. "We're simply saying let's look at the facts and let the facts speak for themselves."

This latest incident comes on the heels of another University investigation that wrapped up last August, involving problems found in papers published in the journals Nature and Experimental Hematology, which New Scientist also uncovered.

In that instance, a panel reviewed the papers and found no evidence of foul play, but did conclude the studies' methods to be "significantly flawed," calling into question the results.

Despite so many uncertainties raised in such a short time, the vice president said he doesn't believe it will seriously damage the research reputation of the Stem Cell Institute or the University.

"In the long run, how we handle this at the University is actually going to enhance the University's reputation," he said.

Anyone who just wandered into this and is unaware of the stem cell controversy at BigU may wish to consult an earlier post concerning Photoshop manipulation of scientific data. The link to "infographic" shows a figure from the New Scientist that illustrates the problem.

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