In a move that looks to veer away from her defiant stance, embattled stem cell scientist Haruko Obokata has finally agreed to take down one of her 2 co-authored STAP cell research papers published in an international science journal, this according to her lawyer on Wednesday. Obokata however says that she will continue to stand firm on her other paper, refusing to retract it as requested by Japan’s renowned RIKEN Institute.
This is the first time the 30-year-old Obokata has seemed to back down from her strong conviction of not retracting her papers, this after the scandal blew up and the RIKEN Institute had to intervene to get to the bottom of the accusations against Obokata, which included image manipulation and falsification in her research. Obokata has strongly claimed that these were mistakes, and not intentional. The researcher’s lawyers revealed that Obokata had been in contact with the two other principal authors of the paper being retracted – that is, Professor Teruhiko Wakayama of the University of Yamanashi, and deputy director Yoshiki Sasai of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe – and both had given their go ahead for the paper to be withdrawn.
It can be remembered that Obokata’s research had initially caused waves in the stem cell community, as she claimed that she has found a better and easier way to create stem cells capable of growing into any kind of body tissue – her target at that point was body parts for mice. These were called STAP cells – or stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency cells. The ensuing investigation into Dr. Haruko Obokata’s paper showed that some of the images presented in the paper claiming to be two different targets were actually just photos of the same mouse at different times. It remains to be seen in the aftermath of the high-profile scandal if Obokata can hold on to her stance of standing by her research.