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Stem cell research flaws don't change findings

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Researcher Catherine Verfaillie
Stem cell researcher Catherine Verfaillie.
MPR file photo

An investigative panel with the journal Nature say flawed data in an article authored by University of Minnesota stem cell researcher Catherine Verfaillie do not detract from the main findings of the paper. 

The statement comes after New Scientist magazine found a set of graphs in Verfaillie's 2002 Nature article were similar to data in another journal article that referenced other specimens. 

The original research is significant because it suggests adult stem cells can develop into other cells, which is a trait previously ascribed only to the more politically touchy embryonic stem cells. 

Verfaillie is among the authors of the Nature article this week that maintains her claim that the error does not taint the overall conclusion of the report. Verfaillie told university officials the mix-up came because the two reports were prepared at the same time. 

Tim Mulcahy, vice president for research at University of Minnesota, says the report should be the last word on the issue.

"I think now this closes the loop. The errors were acknowledged. It was identified as honest error. And now we know the inclusion of that data didn't undermine the conclusions of the work," says Mulcahy.

The Nature addendum does not address other problems also uncovered by New Scientist in March, involving slide images in the journal Blood. The magazine notes one figure appears to be an altered mirror image of another slide. The images refer to human bone marrow samples. 

Verfaillie is now at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, but maintains a part-time connection to the University of Minnesota.