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Reply to Retraction of the paper “Atomic resolution studies detect new biologic evidences on the Turin Shroud” by all the authors of the paper

Posted by ecarlino on 26 Jul 2018 at 09:45 GMT

Reply to Retraction of the paper “Atomic resolution studies detect new biologic evidences on the Turin Shroud” by all the authors of the paper
The PLOS ONE Editors; Published: July 19, 2018
https://doi.org/10.1371/j...

Dear Sir/Madam,
please find in the following our replies to the concerns raised by the editors of PLOS ONE. We would like to remind that our paper was accepted for publications on PLOS ONE after positive refereeing of three referees for three months.
For your convenience the concerns of PLOS ONE are reported numbered by (i) together with our answer for each point raised.

i) “Concerns have been raised that the data presented in this article [1] are not sufficient to support the conclusions drawn; the provenance, integrity and availability of the material used for the study have also been questioned. In light of these issues, the PLOS ONE Editors reevaluated the published article in consultation with members of our Editorial Board”.

Our Answer:

In [1] we explicitly stated:
1) “The fiber was provided by B. M. Schwortz [18], as part of the Shroud of Turin Education and Research Association, Inc. (STERA Inc).
2) reference18: Schwortz BM.—Mapping of Research Test-Point Areas on the Shroud of Turin—IEEE 1982 Proceedings of the International Conference on Cybernetics and Society 538–547 1982; http://www.shroud.com/map...
3) “Shroud of Turin Education and Research Association Inc. (STERA Inc.), represented by B. Schwortz, is acknowledged for providing the sticky tape containing the fiber of the Turin Shroud.”
Thus, the provenience of the fiber has been clearly declared. The fiber integrity and conservation were guaranteed as, after its extraction from the shroud, it remained glued between the sticky tape and a microscope glass to until its removal by G. Fanti. Hence, the pristine fiber was studied by TEM without any other sample treatment thanks to a recent method developed in our laboratory for the study of radiation sensitive materials by high energy electrons in a TEM/STEM.

ii) “Based on our internal assessment and advice received from the Editorial Board members, the PLOS ONE Editors are concerned that there are not sufficient controls to support conclusions referring to human blood or physical trauma. For example, period ink and animal blood controls were not included in diffraction and STEM analyses, as would be needed to rule out alternate interpretations regarding the material on the fiber, and the creatinine findings do not provide definitive evidence of trauma or violence”.

Our answer:

Both two-dimensional electron diffraction patterns and Fourier Transforms of High-Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy images, acquired in area of the fiber that appears clean at the optical microscopy, and taken at several zone axes orientations, enable to recognize without doubts a chemical/biological compound. Experimental diffraction data were also successfully compared with the relevant simulations, as well-established procedure in accurate TEM/STEM experiments. Our analyses in the Fourier space, reported in [1] and in the Supporting information file, clearly shown that our experimental data are compatible with creatinine with inside ferrihydrate cores. The observed nano-particles are not compatible with pigments, inks and other chemical/biological compounds, as explicitly explained in [1] (see page 7 and ref 13, 17 36 &37). Creatinine can be found also in sweat, but we found “creatinine bounded to iron oxide ferritin cores”. This is a different compound with a negligible presence in healthy organisms whereas can be found consistently only in the blood serum under pathological conditions producing the rupture of the cells and the interaction in the blood stream between creatinine and the ferrihydrate clusters contained in the ferritin. This compound is toxic for the organism and it is related to acute kidney disease. This is one of the reason why many injured in strong accidents could die for kidney disease. This is the finding that can be related to strong polytrauma and that cannot be explained by supposing contamination simply with the blood of someone who accidentally touched the Turin Shroud while he was bleeding. It could be animal blood. But, if it was the case, the animal would have suffered a strong polytrauma. This would call the intention of an artist to produce an artifact; but why should he use the blood serum after torture? Should we think that an artist in the Middle Ages could have used the blood serum of a tortured person or animal to produce the exact pattern that someone, using the equipment and the technologies of many centuries later, would have detected? The scientific conclusions are based on evidences and logic. This has been explicitly reported in [1].

iii) “Thus, we consider that the main conclusions of the article, including the following statements, are not sufficiently supported:
“On the basis of the experimental evidences of our atomic resolution TEM studies, the man wrapped in the TS suffered a strong polytrauma”
“the fiber was soaked with a blood serum typical of a human organism that suffered a strong trauma”
“at the nanoscale it is encoded a scenario of great suffering recorded on the nanoparticles attached to the linen fibers””

Our answer:

These conclusions are reached according to the evidences provided in the paper, that no one has scientifically contradicted, and following the logic that makes unlikely an artwork made by someone capable to forecast the scientific evolution in the 21st century. Nevertheless, we also proposed to reformulated these sentences as follows, to mitigate the conclusions:
“On the basis of the experimental evidences of our atomic resolution TEM studies, the man wrapped in the TS might have suffered a strong polytrauma.”
“the fiber was soaked with a blood serum typical of an organism that might have suffered a strong trauma”
“at the nanoscale it might be encoded a scenario of great suffering recorded on the nanoparticles attached to the linen fibers”.

But, for PLOS ONE editors, also these bland statements have been considered inappropriate.

iiii) “In addition, the results of this article were based on analysis of a single fiber (approximately 1mm in length and 15μm in diameter) from the Turin Shroud. The reliance on a single small fiber taken from the Turin Shroud in 1978 calls into question the validity of statements in the Results and Conclusions sections which compare the new findings to those reported in previous studies of the Turin Shroud. It has not been demonstrated that findings from the fiber used in the PLOS ONE article can be generalized as applying to other samples taken from the Turin Shroud, or that contamination of the sample can be ruled out”.

Our answer:

All TEM experiments done all over the world are not performed on macroscopic volumes; what it is always important is that the specimen has to be representative of the material under study and that the experiment has to be performed on hundreds of areas of the specimen to have a result significant in terms of statistic. Definitely, it is a nonsense that a single small fiber of the fabric was wet by the serum of a dead person with severe kidney problems and that in the veil there are no other fibers wet by this serum. Of course, our experiments cannot say who this person is and when he was draped in the veil. The date by C14 states that the veil is of the Middle Ages; well, this is not the subject of our paper and there is no contradiction with that. As far as it concerns the statistic of the experiments, we performed hundreds of TEM experiments, as usual in accurate TEM experiments, on different particles of the fiber indexing different zone axes of the creatinine bound to ferrihydrate [1]. The experiments are reproducible, STERA has some fibers and the Turin Shroud is property of the Vatican. Those interested should ask the specimen to them. We also offered the fiber used for our study to reproduce or to contradict our experiments in a non-destructive way.

vi) “Furthermore, the Competing Interests statement for this article [1] should have declared that the sample was provided by the Shroud of Turin Education and Research Association Inc. (STERA).

Our answer:
As reported above we wrote three times that the specimen was provided by STERA. We did not report in “the conflict of interest section” the occurrence of any conflict of interest with STERA, simply because STERA did not give any contributions about the experiments, their interpretation and the writing of the paper. Nevertheless, we also proposed to add an erratum in the paper for the conflict of interest, but this was not accepted by PLOS ONE.
These are the reasons why we do not agree with the retraction.
References
1. Carlino E, De Caro L, Giannini C, Fanti G (2017) Atomic resolution studies detect new biologic evidences on the Turin Shroud. PLoS ONE 12(6): e0180487. https://doi.org/10.1371/j... pmid:28666007

Competing interests declared: we are the authors of the paper