2013 Stem Cell Study Officially Retracted

Reproducibility is a very important element of any scientific study. In recent years, however, many scientists publish their findings in journals before proving that their findings can be replicated. This practice can sometimes lead to studies that sound exciting, but unravel upon further scrutiny.

And this scenario can explain why a 2013 study on stem cell research has been officially retracted by Cell, the journal that originally published it.

The Study

Three years ago, Harvard University researcher Douglas Melton lead a team in a study they believed would be a step forward for diabetes treatment. The study involved a hormone called betatrophin, which they found effective in increasing the production of beta cells in diabetic mice. Betatrophin, Melton argued in the published study, “could augment or replace insulin injections.”

But one year after the publication, an independent team at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals attempted to recreate the Harvard team's results. They published another paper in Cell, in which they concluded that betatrophin was not influential in beta cell expansion.

2015 showed promise for Melton's team, as another research group managed to replicate their findings with diabetic rats. But after two labs tried their hands at the study, the conclusion was clear: Harvard's original research had to be withdrawn.

The Retraction

Since 2013, Melton has been closely following the replication studies surrounding his research. He even published a replication of his own in PLOS ONE, another scientific journal. However, he told Retraction Watch in an interview that getting the retraction from Cell was very important – to him, and to the scientific community.

“I wanted to make sure anyone doing a PubMed search would see this is our present view,” Melton said. “It would be most unfortunate if a lab missed the PLOS ONE paper, then wasted time and effort trying to replicate our results.”

While this retraction may feel like a step backwards to some diabetics and diabetes researchers, Melton believes this will be a great thing for the field as a whole.

“It’s an example of how scientists can work together when they disagree, and come together to move the field forward,” he told Retraction Watch. “The history of science shows it is not a linear path.”

Source: The Scientist

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