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Articles by Nobel Prize winner retracted

Four scientific articles published by one of the winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology have been retracted by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) after evidence emerged of image manipulation and duplication. American pediatrician and oncologist Gregg Semenza, 66, of Johns Hopkins University, USA, specializes in molecular mechanisms that help cells, including cancerous ones, adapt to oxygen-poor environments. He shared the 2019 award with American scientists William Kaelin Jr., from Harvard University, and English scientist Peter Ratcliffe, from the University of Oxford.

The retraction notes describe the problems found with the images, but state that the general conclusions of the studies are likely to remain valid. The four articles were published between 2009 and 2014 and are related to the line of research for which the Nobel Prize was awarded. Altogether, the papers have been cited more than 750 times. Suspicions of image manipulation surfaced soon after Semenza won the prize. The source of the complaint was Claire Francis, a well-known pseudonym to editors of scientific journals, who has been highlighting errors and fraud via anonymous emails or commenting on articles on the PubPeer website since 2010 (see Pesquisa FAPESP issue nos. 215 and 250). Semenza was contacted by the website Retraction Watch but declined to comment on the retractions.