December 1, 2022

Researcher falsified adult stem cell data, says university

Different standards then, says scientist

More murky data and
allegations of falsified results from the stem cell world, this time
from an alternative to embryonic stem cells. Back in 2001, a research
at the University of Minnesota, Catherine Verfaillie, published a
paper in the leading journal
Blood,
which suggested that certain rare bone marrow stem cells might have
all the versatility of embryonic stem cells. This was followed by
another paper in
Nature.

At the time, these
discoveries became bullets in the stem cell debate, with opponents of
destructive embryo research claiming that adult stem cells offered
even more hope than embryonic stem cells. Unfortunately other
researchers had trouble reproducing her results and suspicions were
raised about Verfaillie’s data. After a lengthy investigation, the
University has determined that several images had been deliberately
falsified. It blamed a former graduate student, Dr Morayma Reyes, now
an assistant professor at the University of Washington. Dr Verfaillie
was censured for inadequate oversight. The University has asked for
the paper in
Blood
to be retracted.

Compared to other
scandals, this is fairly inconsequential. Dr Reyes admits that she
altered the images by adjusting brightness and contrast, but says
that this was accepted practice at the time. And subsequent research
has corroborated Verfaillie’s work. A biotech company in Cleveland,
Athersys, has begun a clinical trials on leukaemia patients. But her
stem cells may have been a dead end, in any case. More interest
nowadays is being paid to reprogrammed stem cells. ~
Pioneer
Press, Oct 19
; AP,
Oct 7