Dr. Shinya Yamanaka is practically a household name in Japan when talking about stem cells as he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2012 for his research, virtually catapulting him to nationwide and global fame. But after a huge scandal rocked Japan’s stem cell research community these past few months, there has seemingly been a lot of soul searching going on in the community, and the country was again surprised on Monday when Dr. Yamanaka apologized for what he described as “poor record-keeping” in his highly regarded research.
On Monday evening, Yamanaka, who is also a professor at Kyoto University, spoke at a news conference after there have apparently been questions raised about a research paper published in 2000 in which he was the lead author. This specific paper has been foundational in his Nobel Prize winning work in 2012, and Kyoto University has gone on record saying that their investigations on Yamanaka’s earlier work showed no problems with the paper’s conclusions. Yamanaka however acknowledged that he no longer had the lab records that would support the validity of the images. “I would like to express remorse from my heart and apologize,” he said. He revealed that he had kept his own records for the 2000 paper, but he also failed to keep the records of colleagues. He said that it was an embarrassment to his field, as he was unable to offer data to support the validity of the images in the paper.
It was Yamanaka’s research that has propelled Japan’s stem cell research community in the past few years, with the government centering efforts to turn regenerative biology into a national project that could help drag Japan’s economy out of stagnation. However, despite more than ten years into the research, doctors and pharmaceutical companies still do not have any kind of solid product, using the science to produce useful treatments for heart failure or diabetes. And the recent scandal surrounding Dr. Haruko Obokata of the Riken institute has only served to put a dent in the image of Japan’s stem cell research community as a whole.
[via The Wall Street Journal]