Obokata to join cell verification experiment at Riken


The government-backed Riken research institute said it will allow discredited researcher Haruko Obokata to participate in an experiment to verify whether her so-called STAP cells exist as she claims.

Starting Tuesday, Obokata was to join a verification experiment that began in April at her workplace, the Riken Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, after Riken’s inquiry panel ruled that she was guilty of research misconduct in one of two papers she headed on STAP cells, which can purportedly turn into any kind of cell in mice.

STAP stands for stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency.

After Riken’s announcement Monday, Obokata said that she appreciated the institute’s decision and “will make utmost effort to prove the existence of the STAP phenomenon and STAP cells.”

Riken will ensure the process stays transparent by putting Obokata under full surveillance, either physically or by camera. She was the lead author of the papers, which were published in the British science journal Nature, and leader of the cell reprogramming unit at the CDB.

Nature said Monday that it would soon retract the discredited papers, which means that Obokata’s work will have no value as a scientific achievement.

Obokata’s team said in January they converted mature cells from young mice into cells that can develop into any type of tissue, even placenta, simply by exposing them to simple stimuli, such as a mild acid solution.