Obokata agrees to pull main STAP cell article

June 04, 2014


Haruko Obokata, the scientist accused of fabricating her research into a new type of stem cell, has agreed to withdraw her groundbreaking article published in the British science journal Nature in January that brought her worldwide acclaim.

Once the article on stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP, cells, is retracted, her discovery will cease to have any scientific basis.

Obokata, 30, leads a research unit at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe. Of the eight co-authors of the main STAP article, Obokata and Charles Vacanti, an anesthesiology professor at Harvard University, served as lead authors.

Vacanti has also contacted the co-authors and expressed his intention to withdraw the article, sources said.

Riken officials announced June 4 that Obokata signed a document of agreement to retract the article and submitted it to one of her co-authors the previous day. The institute had earlier concluded she fabricated or doctored illustrations.

In May, she agreed to withdraw a supplementary paper, which also contains erroneous use of illustrations.

The main article attests to the STAP mechanism, whereby external stresses, such as an acid bath, could reprogram mouse somatic cells into pluripotent cells, which can develop into body organs and tissue for use in regenerative medicine. It also details a method to engineer STAP cells.

During a news conference on April 9, Obokata disputed Riken’s assertion that she fabricated photos in the article and protested the recommendation to withdraw them.

She tearfully defended her work and said that sending the message to the world that STAP cells have no scientific basis is flat wrong.

Vacanti had also opposed withdrawing the main article, saying the irregularities do not reduce the value of the discoveries.

Retracting an academic paper published in Nature requires the consent of all its authors. The lead authors must then make an application to the journal's editing team to withdraw the article.

Nature’s editing team said it reserves the right to withdraw an article after a request is made by the authors.

Three authors of the supplementary article, including Obokata, have also agreed for a retraction.

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Haruko Obokata at a news conference on April 9 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Haruko Obokata at a news conference on April 9 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Haruko Obokata at a news conference on April 9 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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