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Biological Chemistry

Olfaction Retractions: Nobelist Linda Buck Withdraws Additional Work

by Carmen Drahl
September 23, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 39

Nobel Laureate Linda B. Buck has simultaneously retracted two studies about smell-related neurons after her laboratory was unable to reproduce them. This marks the second time that work Buck coauthored with former postdoctoral researcher Zhihua Zou has been retracted, but unlike the first time, Zou has declined to endorse the retractions.

In 2008, Buck, of Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, retracted work on how the mouse nervous system carries odor signals to the brain (Nature 2001, 414, 173). Zou was co-first author on the study. According to a statement from the Hutchinson Center, Buck and her colleagues subsequently reviewed two other publications describing Zou’s experiments (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2005, 102, 7724; Science 2006, 311, 1477; C&EN, March 13, 2006, page 12). The team was unable to reproduce the work. “I sincerely apologize for any confusion that its publication may have caused,” Buck wrote in a retraction notice in Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1187333).

The Hutchinson Center is conducting its own investigation, and until it is finalized, neither Buck nor the institution may discuss the matter, says a center spokesperson.

Zou could not be reached for comment.

“I believe that these retractions will have a minor impact on olfactory neuroscience,” says Charles J. Wysocki of the Monell Chemical Senses Center. The studies in question are not central to the work recognized by Buck’s 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, he adds.


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