McClatchy Newspapers reported the the Univerity of Minnesota took the step of conducting an inquiry into a 2002 study by Dr. Catherine Verfaillie after questions were raised by a British magazine, New Scientist, about some of the published data. New Scientist disclosed the incident in an article published last week. An expert panel convened by the university concluded that a process used to identify the cells was "significantly flawed, and that the interpretations based on these data, expressed in the manuscript, are potentially incorrect."
Verfaillie's work had cemented the reputation of the University of Minnesota as a major force in the world of stem cell research. Verfaillie, 49, ran the university's stem cell institute from 1999-2006 and now heads stem cell research at Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium, while remaining on the University of Minnesota faculty.
An AP report included a discussion of the multiple use of data, something that had been a red flag in the Hwang Woo Suk matter:
Her research was scrutinized after staffers for New Scientist noticed that some data from the original 2002 article in the London-based scientific journal Nature duplicated data in a second paper by Verfaillie around the same time in a different journal, even though they supposedly referred to different cells.
About a year ago, Peter Aldhous, the San Francisco bureau chief of New Scientist, decided to take a closer look at Verfaillie's work. At the time, he was writing about problems plaguing stem cell research.
Aldhous said he was intrigued with Verfaillie's 2002 study published in Nature, because “it was a remarkable and exciting finding.”
He said he wondered why no one else had been able to duplicate her results.
Aldhous and a colleague started combing through Verfaillie's published studies. And, he said, they found that she had published some of the same data twice, labeled differently, in two scientific journals.
“I wrote to Catherine saying that we'd noticed these duplications and asking if she was able to explain them,” Aldhous said in a telephone interview.
Verfaillie told the Star Tribune that the duplication was an oversight and said she notified the University of Minnesota, which convened the panel to take a closer look at the research.
One notes that the journal involved here, Nature, wasn't saying much:
The editor of Nature said in a statement: “We are in touch with the author and investigating the problems that have been mentioned. We have no further comment.”