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Embattled STAP cell scientist Obokata to retract research paper

Kyodo

Embattled scientist Haruko Obokata has agreed to retract one of two STAP cell research papers from the journal Nature, but maintains she will not retract the other one, her lawyer said Wednesday.

It is the first time that the 30-year-old researcher from the state-backed Riken Institute has agreed to have a paper retracted in connection with the high-profile study that quickly drew questions and allegations of misconduct.

Obokata, who led the study into the stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency cells, and two other co-authors have given their consent to retract the paper, sources close to the matter said.

Of the three researchers, her lawyer said University of Yamanashi professor Teruhiko Wakayama is responsible for the paper Obokata has agreed to retract. He was engaged in all experiments, and Obokata wrote the paper under his guidance, lawyer Hideo Miki said.

She e-mailed the other main co-author, Yoshiki Sasai, deputy director of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, that she would have no problem if Wakayama wants to retract it, Miki said.

Both papers were published in the Jan. 30 edition of the journal, one as a “letter” and the other as an “article.”

Riken concluded in March that Obokata falsified or fabricated images used in the article. Obokata says she simply made mistakes without malicious intent.

While the research letter has 11 co-authors and Nature in principle requires that consent be obtained from all co-authors to have a research paper retracted, the chances are good that it will be retracted now that the three main co-authors have apparently agreed to that.

The images of two mice presented in the paper, purportedly showing the results of different experiment related to STAP cells, turned out to be photos of the same mouse.

The STAP papers attracted global attention as the authors claimed they developed an easier way to create stem cells that are capable of growing into any type of body tissue.