Beleaguered Obokata rebuts co-author, vows to prove STAP cells do exist

Kyodo

The lead author of two controversial stem-cell papers that she has agreed to retract still insists her findings remain valid and wants to prove them herself, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Haruko Obokata, who is at the center of a scandal over research on stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency cells is “keen to fulfill her accountability as the papers’ lead author” by demonstrating the existence of STAP cells, attorney Hideo Miki told reporters.

Obokata, a stem cell scientist at the state-affiliated Riken Institute, has come further scrutiny after a co-author of the papers, Teruhiko Wakayama, said Monday that new tests conducted by a third party found no evidence that the cells exist.

This follows a series of allegations of misconduct in relation to the two research papers.

Wakayama, a professor at the University of Yamanashi, said the stem cell samples Obokata says she engineered from mice in his laboratory at Riken may have come from other mice entirely.

Miki refuted Wakayama’s allegation, saying Obokata only got mice from his lab and that she wants to “cooperate with Riken in fully investigating, to clarify the facts.”

A panel tasked with reforming Riken said last week the institute should try to replicate the research while monitored by a committee of outside experts.

Obokata and her fellow researchers made headlines worldwide earlier this year with what they described as a simple technique to produce STAP cells, which are capable of developing into any type of body tissue.

She recently agreed to retract the two papers, published in the British science journal Nature, in the face of allegations of misconduct, though she has stood by her claim that the STAP phenomenon exists.