Amid the scandal that surrounded Riken Institute stem cell researcher Haruko Obokata, it can be remembered that she co-wrote two papers published on the scientific journal “Nature” that revealed – much to the stem cell industry’s excitement (and then disappointment) – faster and more efficient ways to produce pluripotency cells (iPS cells). After being accused of data manipulation and fabrication, Obokata has as of today June 4, 2014, agreed to retract both papers published in the journal.
“We are confirming that she has agreed to retract both articles,” a spokeswoman for the Riken Institute said, adding that officials from the renowned research center are talking to Obokata’s co-authors about the retractions. Last week, Obokata seemed intent to stand her ground against the investigation that was going on regarding the veracity of her research results regarding the so-called “stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency cells” or STAP cells, saying that she would only retract one out of the two papers she co-authored and published. The announcement made today seemed to complete Obokata’s fall from grace, remembering not so long ago when she was one of Riken’s young, bright and up-and-coming star researchers. In an industry that is still dominated by male scientists, Obokata was Japan’s face for women scientists in the country.
It seems that a number of wrong decisions in her research has doomed the young scientist to ignominy, all the while refusing to acknowledge her wrong moves in the research process. STAP cells were supposed to be the next step in bringing stem cell research to actual practical medical use, as her research seemed to show a very easy and efficient way to make stem cells that could be used to develop any part of the human body. But accusations of data fabrication and image manipulation plagued the researcher when other scientists pointed out that they could not duplicate her process. Her agreement to retract both papers is not tantamount to admitting the allegations of fabrication and manipulation in her research.