Harvard Stem Cell Study Retracted

A high-profile Harvard stem cell study published earlier this year was recently retracted from the journal Nature due to “serious concerns with some of the reported data,” according to the retraction.

The official statement, issued Oct. 13, was signed by three of the four authors including Amy J. Wagers, the study’s principle investigator and associate professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard Medical School.

By connecting the circulatory systems of old and young mice, the study claimed that the younger mice’s blood contained compounds that could rejuvenate blood stem cells in the older mice, a discovery which suggested that the process of aging could be slowed or even reversed with environmental changes.

Wagers and two of the other authors wrote last week that “concerns have undermined the authors’ confidence in the support for the scientific conclusions reported, specifically the role of osteopontin-positive niche cells in the rejuvenation of haematopoietic stem cells in aged mice.”

The retraction added that the investigation into the results is still ongoing. The original paper, published on January 28, has already been cited 13 times, according to the Web of Science online citation index.

Shane R. Mayack, the lead author and a former post-doctoral fellow in the Wagers Lab, was the sole author not to sign the retraction, maintaining that the results are accurate, according to the statement. Mayack left the Medical School-affiliated Joslin Diabetes Center, where the Wagers Lab is located, on Oct. 1, according to its website.

Last Friday, editors of the journal Blood posted a “notice of concern” on its website regarding an older paper published by Mayack and Wagers. This paper, published in 2008 about the role of bone cells in stem cell rejuvenation, included a flow cytometry plot that appeared to be identical to the one in the retracted paper. Blood’s website states that an internal review into the reported data of this paper is underway.

“Any concerns brought to our attention are thoroughly reviewed in accordance with institutional policies and applicable regulations,” wrote the HMS Dean of Research Integrity Gretchen Brodnicki in an email.

The paper’s authors did not respond to requests for comment.

—Staff writer Helen X. Yang can be reached at hxyang@fas.harvard.edu.

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