Misconduct from NIH postdoc

A Japanese researcher falsified figures in three published papers while working as a visiting postdoc at the NIH's National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) linkurl:reported;http://ori.dhhs.gov/misconduct/cases/Tanaka.shtml last week. Kazuhiro Tanaka, a cancer researcher formerly at Kyushu University in Japan, fidgeted with Western blots, Northern blots, and gel shift assay images by duplicating bands in the results of three papers pu

Elie Dolgin
Feb 16, 2009
A Japanese researcher falsified figures in three published papers while working as a visiting postdoc at the NIH's National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) linkurl:reported;http://ori.dhhs.gov/misconduct/cases/Tanaka.shtml last week. Kazuhiro Tanaka, a cancer researcher formerly at Kyushu University in Japan, fidgeted with Western blots, Northern blots, and gel shift assay images by duplicating bands in the results of three papers published from 2000 to 2002. The dodgy studies stem from work done from 1996 to 1998 when Tanaka was a visiting postdoc in linkurl:Yoshihiko Yamada's;http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/Research/NIDCRLaboratories/CellDevelopmental/YYamada.htm lab at the NIDCR investigating transcriptional regulation of type II and type XI collagen genes in mouse and rat cells. The fudged figures were included in linkurl:one paper;http://www.jbc.org/cgi/content/abstract/275/17/12712 in the __Journal of Biological Chemistry__ (JBC) in 2000 (with Tanaka as a middle author), which identified a cartilage-specific enhancer in the first intron of the collagen gene, __Col11a2__, and has...
aniofacial Research (NIDCR), the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) linkurl:reported;http://ori.dhhs.gov/misconduct/cases/Tanaka.shtml last week. Kazuhiro Tanaka, a cancer researcher formerly at Kyushu University in Japan, fidgeted with Western blots, Northern blots, and gel shift assay images by duplicating bands in the results of three papers published from 2000 to 2002. The dodgy studies stem from work done from 1996 to 1998 when Tanaka was a visiting postdoc in linkurl:Yoshihiko Yamada's;http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/Research/NIDCRLaboratories/CellDevelopmental/YYamada.htm lab at the NIDCR investigating transcriptional regulation of type II and type XI collagen genes in mouse and rat cells. The fudged figures were included in linkurl:one paper;http://www.jbc.org/cgi/content/abstract/275/17/12712 in the __Journal of Biological Chemistry__ (JBC) in 2000 (with Tanaka as a middle author), which identified a cartilage-specific enhancer in the first intron of the collagen gene, __Col11a2__, and has been cited 43 times according to ISI, and two papers in __Molecular and Cellular Biology__ (MCB) in linkurl:2000;http://mcb.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/20/12/4428 and linkurl:2002;http://mcb.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/22/12/4256 (with Tanaka as the first author), which characterized zinc finger factors that negatively regulate cartilage-specific expression of __Col11a2__ and another collagen gene, __Col2a1__, and have been cited 39 and 18 times, respectively. In 2006, the papers' authors issued a correction for the problematic figure in the __JBC__ study and retracted figures in both __MCB__ papers, although the authors maintain that they stand by the basic results of the papers. "Some figures needed to be corrected, but overall the conclusions I still feel are correct," Yamada told __The Scientist__. Yamada learned of the image manipulations after someone in his lab noticed that some of the figures looked "very strange," he said. When Yamada questioned Tanaka about the figures, he was told that a "personal friend" in Japan carried out the experiments. Although Yamada was given the friend's name, neither he nor the NIH investigators could locate her. The NIH's Office of Intramural Research conducted an inquiry from January to June 2005 in which a committee interviewed Tanaka in person in the US with the help of a translator. "[Tanaka] claimed that somebody else had done all the fabrication," Joan Schwartz, the NIH's intramural research integrity officer, told __The Scientist__. "To be honest, we don't know that there ever was such a person." The inquiry committee tentatively concluded that Tanaka was guilty of misconduct, although they couldn't prove it, Schwartz said. "We ended the case at the point thinking we couldn't go any further." The committee sent its findings to the ORI, which probed the datasets and concluded that the image manipulations were carried out during Tanaka's time at the NIDCR, not in Japan. The NIH then established a formal investigation from January to August 2007, at which time Tanaka returned to the US with a lawyer for another interview. "We finally concluded that, yes, it had been he who had committed most of the misconduct," said Schwartz. Although certain figures have already been corrected or retracted, Schwartz said she is now working with Yamada to completely retract the two __MCB__ papers, and to correct one more figure in the __JBC__ paper. "Now that we have the [ORI's] final findings, I'm working with [Yamada] to sort out the final wording to send to the journals to say that the [MCB] papers should be retracted," she said. Tanaka, who holds both a PhD and an MD, was working at Kyushu University together with linkurl:Yukihide Iwamoto,;http://hyoka.ofc.kyushu-u.ac.jp/search/details/K000865/english.html and published papers as recently as linkurl:January,;http://jjco.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/hyn153v1 but according to Yamada he has since moved to a private clinic in the Kumamoto Prefecture of Kyushu Island and is no longer conducting research. Tanaka and Iwamoto did not respond to email requests for interviews from __The Scientist__. According to the ORI report, Tanaka acknowledged that original data relating to the falsified figures were missing, though he did not admit misconduct. As part of the settlement agreement, Tanaka is barred from performing research funded by US taxpayers until 2012.
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