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Thread: 'Phony' Stem Cell Researcher To Be Punished

  1. #1

    Default 'Phony' Stem Cell Researcher To Be Punished

    APR 1, 2014

    A Japanese research institute said Tuesday it will punish a scientist after a probe found a ground-breaking study on the production of stem cells was fabricated.

    Riken Institute head, Ryoji Noyori, who jointly won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2001, said in a statement he will "rigorously punish relevant people after procedures in a disciplinary committee."

    The punishment is expected to be meted out to lead researcher Haruko Obokata and her more experienced colleagues.

    The move is a huge blow to what was touted as a game-changing discovery, published by 30-year-old Obokata along with other Japanese researchers and a US-based scientist in the January edition of British journal Nature.

    The study outlined a relatively simple way to grow transplant tissue in the lab by converting regular adult cells into a kind of stem cell -- a cell that has the potential to become differentiated into the various specialized cells that make up the brain, heart, kidneys and other organs.

    But it faced questions after the respected institute, which sponsored the study, launched an inquiry last month over the credibility of its data.

    Among key concerns was that researchers used erroneous images -- crucial to supporting the study -- which resembled those used in Obokata's doctoral dissertation in 2011. This "amounts to phony research or fabrication," Shunsuke Ishii, head of Riken's probe committee told a press conference Tuesday.

    But Obokata hit back, saying she was surprised and angry about the findings.

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    "I will file a complaint against Riken as it's absolutely impossible for me to accept this," she said Tuesday in a statement.

    The study had been billed as the third great advance in stem cells -- a field that aims to reverse Alzheimer's, cancer and other crippling or lethal diseases. It took a big hit last month after Teruhiko Wakayama, a Yamanashi University professor who co-authored the article, called for a retraction.

    Nature has said it has launched its own investigation.
    First treatment in 2007. Pioneering ever since.


  2. #2

    Default Japan stem cell scientist Haruko Obokata stands by ‘phoney’ research

    Japan stem cell scientist Haruko Obokata stands by ‘phoney’ research
    APRIL 09, 2014

    Tokyo: A young female scientist accused of fabricating data made a tearful apology live on Japanese television on Wednesday for "mistakes" in her research, but insisted her ground-breaking conclusions on stem cells were accurate.

    Haruko Obokata, 30, blamed her youth and inexperience for errors in her methodology, but said she had managed to create the building-block cells capable of growing into the specialised cells of the brain, liver, heart or kidneys.

    "I apologise with my whole heart to my co-authors... and many others for causing trouble because of my insufficient efforts, ill-preparedness and unskilfulness," a visibly shaken Obokata told a press conference.

    "To many people there may be too many unbelievable mistakes, but that does not affect the conclusion," she said.

    Obokata was feted as a modern-day Marie Curie after unveiling research that showed a simple way to re-programme adult cells to become a kind of stem cell.

    So-called Stimulus-Triggered Acquisition of Pluripotency (STAP) cells were hailed as a breakthrough that could provide a ready supply of the base material for much-needed transplant tissue, at minimal cost.

    Campaigners said it represented a leap forward in the fight against degenerative diseases.

    If the science was important, Obokata's profile — a young woman in a world dominated by middle-aged men — proved irresistible to Japan's media.

    Journalists were beguiled by eccentricities that included her insistence on wearing a housewife's apron in the laboratory, instead of a white coat.

    But within weeks of her paper being published in the prestigious journal Nature, questions began to emerge, with fellow scientists saying they could not replicate her results.

    The respected Riken Institute, which sponsored the research, launched an inquiry and declared last week that the study was flawed.

    This "amounts to phoney research or fabrication" by Obokata, Shunsuke Ishii, head of Riken's probe committee, told a press conference after it was revealed Obokata had cut-and-pasted illustrations used in other studies.

    On Wednesday she accepted that the way she had presented the data was not right, but insisted it had been done for cosmetic reasons and not to alter the outcome.

    "I thought there would be no problem as long as I could show the results properly," she said on Wednesday.

    "People say I should retract the papers, but doing so will mean that the outcome of my research is completely wrong. I can't say that to the world because the outcome is right."

    Obokata on Tuesday submitted a formal complaint to Riken over its declaration that the study was bogus, demanding it reverse its decision and stand by her work.

    Kyodo News reported that Riken's rules require that an investigative panel scrutinise her objection and give its findings within 50 days.

    If it finds against her, she will be "disciplined" by the institute, which said this week it was launching a year-long study to establish if there was any truth in Obokata's findings.

    On Wednesday the young scientist choked back sobs during a two-and-a-half-hour press conference carried on at least two television channels, in which she insisted: "STAP cells do exist. I successfully made STAP cells at least 200 times."

    She said she did not believe her study should be retracted and she hoped to announce new research showing "a certain recipe" to create the cells.

    "If there is any future for an inexperienced person like me as a researcher, I want to keep working towards the development of STAP cells to a level that could be helpful to someone," she said.
    First treatment in 2007. Pioneering ever since.


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