A widely heralded stem cell research paper published in Japan that purported to find a possible groundbreaking process to treat common diseases like diabetes and Parkinson’s was revealed to have used data that was falsified, this according to a team of investigators from the Japanese government-funded Riken Center for Development Biology. Riken had recently withdrawn its support for the paper even though it was made by a team from within the institution, as the investigation found that the research data used in the paper was fabricated.
Riken said that it was holding the lead researcher, Haruko Obokata, responsible for the situation, saying that the author of the paper may have manipulated or falsified images of DNA fragments used in the paper. “The manipulation was used to improve the appearance of the results,” said Shunsuke Ishii, the head of the committee set up to investigate the research paper. The committee said that there were three other co-authors of the paper – they had not falsified their data, but the committee said that they were still “gravely responsible” for failing to verify the research findings.
Researchers both from Boston and Japan were conducting experiments that would result in turning ordinary cells – the test cells were from mice – into stem cells, achieved by exposing the cells to a more acidic environment than they are used to. The research team had initially hoped to harness stem cells to replace defective tissue in a wide variety of diseases. When the investigative committee was asked if these so-called STAP cells – short for “stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency cells” – actually existed, they would not comment. “That was not my mission,” Ishii said.
[via The Republic]