Scientist Retracts Groundbreaking Stem Cell Study

Haruko Obokata retracts her research but denies misconduct

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 3, 2014 10:57 AM CDT

(Newser) – A few months ago, Haruko Obokata appeared to be one of Japan's most promising young scientists. Her mind-blowing research on stem cells in mice, which apparently showed the cells could be made swiftly by dripping blood cells into acid, had just been published in the coveted scientific journal Nature. Yesterday, however, after her co-author renounced the pair's two major scientific papers on STAP—"stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency"—Obokata finally admitted her research was flawed, the Washington Post reports. And though she's been accused of fabrication, a lack of ethics, and "sloppy data management," she denies any misconduct.

"Multiple errors impair the credibility of the study as a whole," she and other scientists said in a retraction, noting "we are unable to say without doubt whether the STAP-SC phenomenon is real." She will, however, spend the next five months at Japan's research institute Riken trying to recreate her findings under video surveillance. Nature has also since retracted the studies after "errors were found in the figures, parts of the methods descriptions were found to be plagiarized and early attempts to replicate the work failed." The publication says it will now reconsider how it vets its studies, though it "could not have detected the problems that fatally undermined the papers."

Haruko Obokata, a researcher of Japanese government-funded laboratory Riken Center for Development Biology, Wednesday, April 9, 2014.   (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
In this Jan. 28, 2014 file photo, researcher Haruko Obokata speaks in western Japan.   (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
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