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Two researchers from Vanderbilt University had to retract a 2016 paper published in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism after they realized that a colleague from another lab had mistakenly supplied them with the wrong transgenic mouse line.

Retraction Watch reported the notice this month and spoke with the two researchers – Raymond Pasek and Maureen Gannon – about the mistake and how it was discovered.

One of the primary focus areas of the Gannon Lab at Vanderbilt University is the role of genes and signaling pathways that are involved in the development and function of specific cell types within the pancreas. More specifically, one of the research projects looks at the role of CTGF, a secreted protein known to modulate growth factor signaling, according to the Gannon Lab.

In this article, we reported that conditional loss of Ctgf from the pancreatic endocrine cells (referred to as CtgfΔEndo) using the Pax6-Cre transgenic mouse line (Ashery-Padan et al., Genes Dev, 2000) resulted in impaired glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and glucose intolerance,” the researchers explained in their retraction message, which now appears in the July 2017 print issue of the journal, and online.

The research team thought that they were using the Pax6-Cre transgenic mouse line when conducting their study.

But during subsequent investigations of the mouse colony, the duo suspected they were working with the wrong mouse line. The colleague accidently provided them with RIP-Cre transgenic line, not Pax6-Cre. Gannon and Pasek confirmed their suspicions by using RIP-Cre-specific PCR primers in April 2017.

“Due to the fact that both lines express Cre recombinase in the β-cells, and the lack of existing information to design genotyping primers specific to the Pax6-Cre transgenic line, we did not discover this error before publication,” Gannon and Pasek wrote.

The researchers said they were (and still are) devastated when they realized the wrong line of mice had been used. The pair immediately notified the journal and colleague that supplied them with the mice. They also alerted their division chief, department chair and dean of faculty affairs.

“We strongly believe that sharing this example will encourage other researchers to do the right thing when a mistake is discovered and promote academic integrity,” they wrote.

The journal editors completed an investigation and did not find any evidence of misconduct on the part of Pasek and Gannon.

“The scientific community and the public needs to trust published scientific results. We should be able to admit when a mistake is made and correct the literature. This has been a learning experience for us and an opportunity for growth,” Gannon told Retraction Watch.

The paper “Connective tissue growth factor is critical for proper β-cell function and pregnancy-induced β-cell hyperplasia in adult mice” has been cited twice since being published in 2016.

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