Immune-Boosting Protein Study Questioned

Science adds an editorial expression of concern to an already-corrected study on a protein reported to spur T-cell proliferation in mice.

Dec 23, 2015
Tracy Vence

Human T cellFLICKR, NIAID

Editors at Science have flagged an already-corrected paper on a protein that reportedly boosts the murine immune system published in a May issue of the journal. “Questions have been raised about the validity of findings,” wrote Marcia McNutt, the journal’s editor in chief, in a December 18 editorial expression of concern. In October, Science posted an erratum on the study, noting that the authors had mixed up Western blots in an oversight “due to large number of similar-looking Westerns that were used to produce the figure panels.” The paper’s findings are now being investigated by Imperial College London, where the study’s lead author—Philip Ashton-Rickardt—is a professor of immunology, Retraction Watch reported this week (December 22).

Following publication of the erratum, “we saw that allegations of misconduct continued to be made on public postings,” McNutt told Retraction Watch. “We felt that it was in the best interests of the readers and of the authors that there be a formal investigation so that these concerns be investigated and either put to rest or confronted by the university and the authors so that the matter could reach some sort of resolution.”

An Imperial College spokesperson told Retraction Watch that the institution “will make public the outcome of the investigation, once it has been concluded.” Ashton-Rickardt has not yet responded to a request for comment from Retraction Watch.