Two researchers conducting animal studies on immunosuppression lied about experimental methodologies and falsified data in 16 papers and several grants produced over the past 8 years, according to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI).
The scientists, Judith Thomas and Juan Contreras, formerly at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), falsely reported that they performed double kidney removals on several rhesus macaques in experiments designed to test the effectiveness of two immune suppressing drugs — Immunotoxin FN18-CRM9 and 15-deoxyspergualin (15-DSG) — in preventing rejection of a single transplanted kidney.
The experimental protocol was to remove one intrinsic kidney, replacing it with a transplant and starting the monkeys on immunosuppresants, and then remove the other intrinsic kidney a month later, according to Richard Marchase, UAB’s vice president of research. “What occurred in a good number of these animals was that [Contreras and Thomas] never performed the second surgery,” Marchase told The Scientist. In a statement emailed to The Scientist Marchase called the misconduct “a very serious offense.”
Thomas’s and Contreras’s research was funded with more than $23 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health. UAB officials learned that Contreras and Thomas had left one native kidney intact in at least 32 animals — which allowed those animals to live and inflated the apparent effectiveness of the drugs — on January 27, 2006, when Thomas reported that she found an experimental monkey with one of its native kidneys intact and blamed Contreras for the mistake.