FLICKR, NIAIDEarlier today (December 16), Science retracted a high-profile study on a newly identified mouse protein dubbed lymphocyte expansion molecule (LEM), which purportedly protected the animals from viral infections and helped fight cancer by spurring the production of memory T cells.
At the time of the study’s publication in April 2015, the researchers were already developing an LEM-boosting gene therapy based on the findings, according to an Imperial College London press release. But starting that fall, problems began to arise. In October, Science posted an erratum stating that the wrong Western blot images were used in the final figures, although the paper’s conclusions were not affected. Then in December, the journal published an expression of concern in response to the launch of an investigation “into potential errors in the paper” by Imperial College London. Now, investigators have concluded that misconduct is to blame, and Science has formally retracted the study.
“[The investigation] has now concluded that duplications and use of incorrect Western blots occurred during the preparation of several figures in the paper,” the retraction notice reads. “The investigation also found that examples of the original Western blots and accompanying experimental details had been lost. The investigation found that the problematic figures had been prepared solely by corresponding author [Philip] Ashton-Rickardt and he accepted full responsibility for them.”
“The College will take the matter forward according to its policy on research misconduct,” an Imperial College spokesperson told Retraction Watch.