Embattled researcher Obokata arrives at Riken to prove STAP cells

Kyodo

The lead author of two controversial STAP cell papers arrived Wednesday at an office of the government-affiliated Riken research institute in Kobe to participate in experiments to verify the findings of her research once touted as trailblazing.

Haruko Obokata, 30, will participate in the experiments for five months until Nov. 30 at Riken’s Center for Developmental Biology to find out if STAP cells can be reproduced to confirm their existence. The institute said it will secure transparency by video recording her experiments and through other means.

Obokata’s participation was scheduled to start on Tuesday, but she skipped the first day due to poor health, according to Riken.

The tests have been under way since April by a team led by Hitoshi Niwa, a Riken researcher and co-writer of the papers on STAP, or stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, cells, which are purportedly capable of developing into any type of mouse tissue.

The experiments are likely to continue through April next year. The institute plans to release an interim report possibly by late July.

The British science journal Nature is expected to retract soon the two papers on STAP cells it published following a series of misconduct allegations in connection with the research, according to sources close to the matter.

Meanwhile, another Riken researcher, Masayo Takahashi, who is conducting the world’s first clinical research using induced pluripotent stem cells, known as iPS cells, said she will consider suspending the research amid growing criticism of Riken over the STAP cell research.

“I will consider suspending treatment regarding patients whose clinical test has not begun,” Takahashi said in a message posted on Twitter. But she added she cannot stop the research on patients for whom treatment preparations have already started.

Takahashi was critical of Riken’s stance of allowing Obokata to participate in the verification tests while suspending deliberations on punitive measures against her.

“I cannot tolerate Riken’s sense of ethics,” she said on Twitter.