Journal retracts claim of sperm made of stem cells

Jul 31, 2009

(AP) -- A scientific journal has retracted a controversial paper claiming to have created the first human sperm from embryonic stem cells.

The journal's editor told the science publication Nature that the study by scientists at Britain's Newcastle University was retracted because two paragraphs in its introduction had been plagiarized.

Newcastle University blamed the plagiarism on a research associate who has left the institution, and said the science behind the research, and its conclusions, were not in question.

Experts said the plagiarism charge did not necessarily undermine the rest of the paper, though they acknowledged concerns might now be raised about the study's credibility.

The Newcastle scientists reported this month that they had produced the sperm in a laboratory and that it could one day help father children. Critics said the sperm did not have the specific shape, movement or function of real sperm.

Graham Parker, editor of Stem Cells and Development, said on the journal's Web site that the sperm study "is being retracted," without explaining why. But the scientific quoted him as saying that half of the introduction paragraphs were plagiarized from a 2007 review in the journal Biology of Reproduction.

Experts said Parker was right to retract the paper.

"This is clearly scientific misconduct," said Allan Pacey, secretary for the British Fertility Society. "I can understand why people might think, if they were sloppy here, maybe they were sloppy elsewhere."

When the initial paper was published, Pacey said he was unconvinced the cells produced could accurately be called spermatazoa.

"It was bad enough to begin with, and now we've got another scandal to deal with," he said. Pacey said he was saddened, and thought the fallout might confuse the public further and hurt scientists' credibility.

The field of stem cell research has battled controversy before, as when disgraced South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk claimed falsely to have derived stem cells from a cloned human embryo in 2004.

Karim Nayernia, who led the research at Newcastle University, was unavailable to comment.

But a statement released by the university blamed research associate Jae Ho Lee for the plagiarism, who has since left the school.

"No questions have been raised about the science conducted or the conclusions of the research," the statement said. It added that the paper will now be submitted to another academic journal and that Newcastle University will be further examining the supervision of research associates.

Elizabeth Wager, chairperson of the Committee on Publication Ethics, an international organization of publishers and editors, applauded the decision of and Development to retract the paper.

"This sets a line in the sand," she said. "Editors have a responsibility to correct the scientific record if misconduct has occurred."

Wager said the plagiarism charge was serious, but less worrisome than data fabrication.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Study on pesticides in lab rat feed causes a stir

Related Stories

Human sperm created from embryonic stem cells (Update)

Jul 08, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Human sperm have been created using embryonic stem cells for the first time in a scientific development which will lead researchers to a better understanding of the causes of infertility.

Science retracts cloning articles

Jan 13, 2006

The journal Science has retracted two articles by discredited South Korean scientist who claimed production of a stem-cell line from a cloned human embryo.

Recommended for you

Study on pesticides in lab rat feed causes a stir

3 hours ago

French scientists published evidence Thursday of pesticide contamination of lab rat feed which they said discredited historic toxicity studies, though commentators questioned the analysis.

International consortium to study plant fertility evolution

7 hours ago

Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology, has joined a consortium of seven other researchers in four European countries to develop the fullest understanding yet of how fertilization evolved in flowering plants. The research, ...

Making the biofuels process safer for microbes

8 hours ago

A team of investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University have created a process for making the work environment less toxic—literally—for the organisms that do the heavy ...

Why GM food is so hard to sell to a wary public

9 hours ago

Whether commanding the attention of rock star Neil Young or apparently being supported by the former head of Greenpeace, genetically modified food is almost always in the news – and often in a negative ...

The hidden treasure in RNA-seq

Jul 01, 2015

Michael Stadler and his team at the Friedrich Miescher institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) have developed a novel computational approach to analyze RNA-seq data. By comparing intronic and exonic RNA reads, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.