Parkinson’s Researcher Fabricated Data – Neuroscientist Mona Thiruchelvam agrees to retract two studies linking neurodegeneration to pesticides.
A former assistant professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey (UMDNJ) committed research misconduct by fabricating data, according to an investigation by the university and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity (ORI). The ORI, which announced its findings on Thursday (June 28), determined that Mona Thiruchelvam falsified cell count data published in two papers in 2009 in Environmental Health Perspectives and Journal of Biological Chemistry, both of which she has agreed to retract.
Thiruchelvam fabricated stereological cell count data in two studies on how pesticides influence neuronal mechanisms involved in Parkinson’s disease (PD). The studies reported the results of 13 new experiments that supposedly counted nigrostriatal neurons in the brains of mice and rats, but an investigation spearheaded by the UMDNJ determined those counts were never taken. The nigrostriatal pathway is a major dopamine circuit in the brain, and loss of neurons in this area is one of the main features of Parkinson’s disease.
The papers slated for retraction investigate the neurological response to the combined pesticides paraquat and maneb, and suggest the pesticide atrazine also has a role in disrupting dopamine pathways. The false data were used to create several summary bar graphs, which Thiruchelvam modified to support the hypothesis that proteasomal dysfunction is higher in males than females with PD, and that exposure to paraquat and maneb enhances this effect.