Lab launches misconduct probe into stem cell 'breakthrough' study after researchers admit mistakes in experiments
Other scientists were unable to reproduce work published in Nature journal
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Friday 14 March 2014
A scientific misconduct investigation has begun into a study purporting to show that stem cells can be created by simply adding weak acid solution to skin or blood cells, after other scientists failed to reproduce the work published earlier this year by a team of Japanese and American scientists.
The Riken Centre for Development Biology in Kobe has launched a full-scale inquiry into the methods and findings of its own researchers who stunned the world in January by claiming in the journal Nature that they had produced so-called STAP stem cells and embryos from blood cells subjected to the acid treatment.
Profesor Ryoji Novori, the President of Riken and a Nobel laureate, issued a statement today saying that the reproducibility and credibility of the study must be rigorously validated in the light of reports that mistakes had been made in preparing the scientific paper.
“It is extremely regrettable that significant discrepancies have been found to have been generated in the process of preparing the Nature articles for publication,” Professor Novori said.
“We are investigating these discrepancies, with the understanding that it may become necessary to demand the withdrawal of the articles. Should the investigative committee conclude that there was research misconduct, we will take strict disciplinary action as stipulated by our own regulations,” he said.
Haruko Obokata, a young Riken researcher, carried out the benchwork that led to the creation of the STAP cells, while the development into embryos was undertaken by Professor Teruhiko Wakayama of the University of Yamanashi, a distinguished expert on cloning, who has since voiced doubts over the work.
“I’m no longer sure that the articles are correct,” Professor Wakayama said at a press conference given on Monday evening in Japan. It is understood that he has doubts over the provenance of the cells supplied by Obokata and wants the papers retracted until the work can be thoroughly verified.
Professor Charles Vacanti of Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston, a co-author of the research, who also claimed to have repeated the breakthrough on human cells, said that he is waiting for the outcome of the Riken investigation before deciding on what to do next.
“In the meantime, I continue to feel that the findings presented in these papers are too significant to disregard based on relatively minor errors or external pressures. In the absence of compelling evidence that the data presented is incorrect, I do not believe that the manuscripts should be retracted, however; this decision is of such importance, that I plan to speak with all of the co-authors prior to making any recommendation,” Professor Vacanti said.
“I firmly believe that the most appropriate course of action at this time is to clarify, in a very specific manner, all of the subtleties associated with the creation of STAP cells by posting specific details of our most effective protocol on our laboratory web site. This action should enable other investigators to replicate our findings, which is what I believe to be the accepted scientific process. I believe, over time, the science will speak for itself,” he said.
Other researchers have pointed out that it is not uncommon for this kind of work to be difficult to reproduce. For instance, it took a year for other scientists to reproduce the cloning work that led to Dolly the sheep.
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...