3 medical journals probe data concerns in heart studies

Three medical journals launched independent investigations into possible data manipulation of heart studies led by Philadelphia-based Temple University researchers, Reuters reported in an exclusive Sept. 13.

The Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology and the Journal of Biological Chemistry are investigating five papers, while a journal owned by the Journal of American College of Cardiology retracted a Temple University paper last month that originally concluded a widely-used blood thinner, Xarelto, could have a healing effect on hearts.

The Temple investigation involves 15 papers published between 2008 and 2020, supported by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, according to court records. Nine of the studies were supervised by Abdel Karim Sabri, PhD, a professor at Temple's Cardiovascular Research Center. His colleague, Steven Houser, PhD, senior associate dean of research at Temple and former president of the American Heart Association, was a listed author on five of those studies.

The investigation adds new scrutiny to a misconduct inquiry by the university and the U.S. government. 

The JACC journal said it retracted the Xarelto study after a complaint from a reader. A correction was made but only led to more concerns. The journal hired an unidentified expert to review the study, who found evidence of manipulation in seven images.

Temple University began its own inquiry in September 2020 at the request of the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, which oversees misconduct investigations into federally funded research, according to a lawsuit filed by one of the researchers.

A Temple spokesperson told Reuters the university is "aware of the allegations and is reviewing them." He would not comment further or discuss interactions with medical journals. ORI declined comment. Dr. Sabri and Dr. Houser did not respond to questions.

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