Human cloning Cell paper under investigation: some perspectives

3 day cloning paper
Cloning paper’s timeline at Cell.

Is it really deja vu all over again with allegations of potential wrongdoing in a paper on human cloning?

“Say it isn’t so!”, is basically the universal reaction I’m getting from people in the stem cell field.

Well, sadly it seems to be so folks.

What’s going on?

Allegations have emerged on a website called PubPeer (a post-publication review kind of website) about the recent Cell paper by the Mitalipov lab on human therapeutic cloning.

A person called “Peer 1” has pointed out alleged instances of image duplication and cropping in the paper. The story was also picked up by Retraction Watch. Science is on the story too. Just to be clear, I am not “Peer 1” as some people have suggested.

A quick look at the paper would suggest there are indeed 3 separate instances of image duplication and images are cropped in various ways that make them look kinda different on first glance.

It makes one feel a bit queasy.

A fourth allegation of inaccurate representation of microarray data related to two panels in Figure S6 in the paper remains more difficult to confirm or deny to this scientist.

The other thing I’m hearing from readers of this blog and others is that they are astonished over the microscopic 3-day period (see image above from the paper) between when the journal Cell received the Mitalipov paper and when it was accepted. A leading stem cell scientist said to me, “Are you f’ing kidding me? 3 days for a human cloning paper?”

Given the 2004/2005 cloning papers by Hwang Woo-suk that proved to be bogus and the highly sensitive nature of human therapeutic cloning, an intense review of the paper before publication would indeed seem like it should have been a no-brainer, eh?

Another leader in the stem cell field told me that Cell should have had 5 independent reviewers look the paper over and have a highly detailed, methodical examination of the paper figure-by-figure, line-by-line, by at least two editors.

Now I’m hearing that we’ll see an announcement by OHSU and Cell as early as tomorrow about this, in all likelihood saying it was all a big innocent mistake.

Maybe it was. I’m betting that to some people though, there will always be doubts after this though.

4 thoughts on “Human cloning Cell paper under investigation: some perspectives”

  1. Pingback: Cells Weekly – May 26, 2013 | Stem Cell Assays

  2. Pingback: Pictures manipulation in embryonic stem cell cloning paper | Stem Cell Assays

  3. I am writing now as an individual– not affiliated through an affilitation with any organization.
    When I worked at Nature, we had to verify that Snuppy was indeed a cloned animal, after the fact, and after publication. This was done by very straightforward (if you save oocyte donor and nuclear donor tissue samples) genetic analysis. In an editorial I later wrote on this topic, I and my Nature editorial colleagues recommended that for critical cloning papers, since it’s so easy to verify, they should submit verification from a separate lab when they submit the paper. You can read the editorial here.

    This was recommended by thought leaders in the field, and through our own experience in verifying Nature cloning papers, namely dog and monkey cloning. Now it will be done on these Mitaliipov cell lines, for sure, but in the meantime, once again, there is unnecessary turmoil. Questions about bad science, bad editorial practices. A world class lab that has now contributed to another page in what is becoming a “what not to do” primer.

    Would have been better to submit the cells for independent analysis and submit along with the paper.

    With regard to short period of time of review– there is competition amongst journals for high profile papers and sometimes promises of very rapid turn around are made. I don’t know if that happened in this case, but as much as scientists complain about excessively lengthy peer review, I suspect in the end they would prefer that to the current situation. Which frankly, does not reflect well on any of us in the scientific community.

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