7 years. 26 journal articles. 145 fraud instances. The heart of a resveratrol research scandal

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Research Researcher

Dr Das
Dr Das
The resveratrol research community won’t be badly damaged by a University of Connecticut researcher accused of publishing falsified data on the red wine antioxidant over seven years in 26 journal articles, say industry observers and the man at the middle of the furore.

The University has alerted 11 journals that published the research about 145 instances of potential fraud following a three-year investigation into Dipak K Das, PhD, the director of the institution’s Cardiovascular Research Center. Six other researchers have been named in the investigation conducted by the US Office of Research Integrity.

While 65-year-old Dr Das has hired an attorney and is refuting the accusations that he manipulated images of data known as Western Blots to deliver positive cardiovascular results in at least 26 articles, industry observers and senior resveratrol researchers said guilty or otherwise, the incident would not halt clinical progress in the area.

Higher bar?

“Even if all the data was indeed falsified it was animal data and doesn’t call into question the more interesting emerging human data,” ​Anthony Almada, president of consultancy IMAGINutrition, told NutraIngredients.

Almada rejected accusations that resveratrol supplement makers had bought Dr Das off via study sponsorship, as almost all of the 26 studies in question were funded by government bodies like the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Dr Das was getting good grants from independent sources, he was a leading researcher in the area, publishing in some top journals so that kind of accusation is hard to justify. Securing ongoing funding and recognition, maintaining his status as an expert in the area and indirect monetary gain are more likely motivations.”

A potential positive side-effect of the affair was an improvement in resveratrol research standards. “It should raise the bar even higher as research in resveratrol is going to be scrutinised more closely than ever.”

David Sinclair, a resveratrol researcher at the Harvard Medical School Department of Genetics, said even though Dr Das’s name appears on more than 100 resveratrol-linked research papers, he had to, “look up who he is.His papers are mostly in specialty journals,”​ Sinclair told TheNew York Times.

Standing firm

Dr Das did not return calls to his home or office at the time of publication, but a statement issued via his Californian attorney, Scott Tips, said the charges could be, “easily refuted”​.

The statement implies co-opted interns could have altered the Western Blots as they had access to his computer, and alleges a racial bias against him and six other researchers due to their east Indian origins.

The statement says even if the Western Blots have been fabricated, it doesn’t discount, “the many health claims associated with resveratrol”​ including Dr Das’, “finding that resveratrol protects the heart against damage prior to a heart attack.”

In the meantime, aside from issuing the warning to the 11 journals including the American Journal of Physiology – Heart & Circulatory ​and the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, ​his University Department has frozen almost $900,000 in research funding.

The other nine journals that published the papers are:

  • Antioxidants & Redox Signaling
  • Cellular Physiology & Biochemistry
  • Free Radical Biology
  • Free Radical Research
  • Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry
  • Journal of Cellular & Molecular Medicine
  • Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
  • Molecular & Cellular Cardiology
  • Molecular & Cellular Chemistry

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