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Paper announcing creation of sperm retracted for plagiarism

3 August 2009
Appeared in BioNews 519

A paper published in the journal Stem Cells and Development announcing the creation of human sperm cells from embryonic stem cells has been withdrawn because it contains plagiarised material.

Twenty days after the paper ‘In Vitro Derivation of Human Sperm from Embryonic Stem Cells' was published online, a statement from the journal editor was released explaining that two of the introductory paragraphs had been copied from another source without attribution to the original author.

Graham Parker, Editor of Stem Cells and Development and Assistant Professor of Paediatrics at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, said that the editors of the journal where the wording originally appeared, Biology of Reproduction, alerted him to the error. They claimed the two paragraphs had been lifted from a review article published in their journal in 2007.

The author of the paper and conductor of the study was Karim Nayernia, Professor of Stem Cell Biology at the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI) and the Institute of Human Genetics at Newcastle University. A statement from the university said that the paper's original first author, a postdoctoral fellow, was responsible for the plagiarism, and after apologising to the authors ‘the correct version of the manuscript' had been immediately submitted to another peer-reviewed academic journal for proof reading.

'There's no reason at the moment to question the actual data in the paper' Parker told ScienceInsider - blog of the journal Science - but in view of the ‘act of scientific misconduct, retraction was the correct course of action in this instance'.

The original paper had previously been criticised by some for 'over-hyping' the research. Although the title and press release accompanying the article claim that actual human sperm cells had been created, the main body of text talked about 'sperm-like cells' with 'tail-like structures'.

Despite the bold claims 'raising hackles' Harry Moore, Co-director of the Centre for Stem Cell Biology at the University of Sheffield believes that 'if there is nothing else behind this [the retraction], it seems a little harsh'.

Editor retracts sperm-creation paper
Nature News |  30 July 2009
Seminal stem-cell paper withdrawn
The Times Higher Education Supplement |  30 July 2009
Sperm-cell creation paper retracted due to plagiarism
The Examiner |  30 July 2009
Study on Sperm Made From Stem Cells Retracted for Plagiarism |  30 July 2009
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