Important Paper in Regenerative Biology Retracted

An important paper in regenerative biology has been retracted after its senior author, associate professor of stem-cell and regenerative biology Amy Wagers, raised concerns.

An important scientific paper in the field of stem-cell and regenerative medicine that identified a mechanism for awakening stem cells involved in healing in older mice has been retracted by its senior author, associate professor of stem-cell and regenerative biology Amy Wagers, after information was brought to her attention that “undermined my confidence in the scientific conclusions.” The Boston Globe first reported the story after Wagers and two other authors, Frances Kim and Jennifer Shadrach, asked that the paper be retracted. A fourth author, Shane Mayack, who was a postdoctoral fellow in the Wagers laboratory when the paper appeared in January 2010 in Nature, “maintains that the results are still valid,” according to that magazine's website.  

Mayack is no longer listed as a fellow on the Wagers lab homepage at the Joslin Diabetes Center, nor does she appear in the list of prior Wagers fellows on that website. According to a Joslin webpage listing researchers, she was a postdoctoral fellow there from March 1, 2005 to October 1, 2010. She has worked on at least two other articles with Wagers, one that appeared in the journal Blood in 2008, and another that appeared in the book Hematopoietic Stem Cell Biology in 2010. Blood posted a "Notice of Concern" on its website after Wagers raised "serious concerns with some of the reported data" and promised that after further review it would "inform readers of the outcomes." The Boston Globe followed up that revelation with a further story on its website.

The Nature paper identified a mechanism by which old mice surgically joined to young mice experienced youthful healing after an injury. This phenomenon, described in this magazine’s January-February issue, has been reported elsewhere and is not in question. But with this retraction, the causative agent of stem-cell awakening that initiates the healing process is once again a mystery.

Wagers issued the following statement: “Information was brought to my attention that undermined my confidence in the scientific conclusions, and I immediately notified Nature, the Joslin Diabetes Center, and Harvard Medical School (HMS). 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. I regret any confusion that has resulted from the publication of this paper and am deeply grateful to my colleagues who are painstakingly working with me to replicate these experiments and evaluate the data.”

The Joslin Diabetes Center announced: "Dr. Wagers brought the concerns to our attention and Joslin treated them with the utmost seriousness. In a situation such as this, to ensure that we maintain the highest standards of research, Joslin reviews the matter in conjunction with Harvard Medical School." At the medical school, dean of 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."  

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