Journal retracts controversial paper about artificial sperm

The journal which published a startling paper claiming to have derived sperm cells from human embryonic stem cells has taken the radical step of retracting it because of plagiarism. The editor of Stem Cells and Development, Graham Parker, says that the first two paragraphs had been lifted from a 2007 article in the journal Biology of Reproduction. Evidence of the embarrassing act of academic misconduct came to light only three days after the paper was published on-line.

Retraction was a drastic step, but Dr Parker said that the corresponding author, Karim Nayernia of the North East England Stem Cell Institute in Newcastle, UK, and the University of Newcastle, had failed to show that copyign the two paragraphs had been an honest mistake.

According to Nature News, the University of Newcastle says that the paper's original first author, Jae Ho Lee, was responsible for the plagiarism and has apologized to the authors. He has since left the university. "No question has been raised about the science conducted or the conclusions of the research," says the statement. "The name of Dr Lee has been removed from the first authorship. The paper will now be submitted to another peer-reviewed academic journal."

This was not the only problem with the publication of the paper, which had set off a huge amount of speculation around the world about the uselessness of males. Although the original paper referred to the production of "sperm-like cells" with "tail-like structures", its journal title, and the university press release discuss "human sperm". No doubt the next journal to review the research will examine the words and the work a bit more carefully. ~ Nature News, July 30

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