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Obokata questioned over alleged theft of Riken stem cell samples

Kyodo

The academic scandal over a debunked stem cell discovery has taken a criminal turn, with police questioning the scientist at the center of the storm.

Disgraced researcher Haruko Obokata recently underwent voluntary questioning in connection with the alleged theft of stem cell samples from her former employer, the Riken institute in Kobe, an investigative source said Thursday.

She was questioned in response to a complaint filed by another former Riken researcher in January last year, although Riken itself has not reported any crime, the police said.

The complainant claimed someone had stolen embryonic stem cells from the laboratory in Kobe in or after April 2011, when Obokata was still employed by Riken. She left the institute in disgrace in December 2014.

Riken concluded in February last year that, due to research misconduct over her debunked discovery of “stimulus triggered acquisition of pluripotency” cells, Obokata would have been fired had she not already resigned. She was the lead author of a pair of papers on the subject that were published in the British science journal Nature in January 2014. The research was initially seen as a groundbreaking discovery, but questions about the papers soon emerged, triggering multiple unsuccessful attempts to reproduce her findings.

In April 2014, Riken said Obokata had falsified parts of the reports. Nature retracted the papers the following July.

After failing to duplicate her results, Riken surmised in December that the so-called STAP cells were most likely embryonic stem cells, or ES cells, effectively concluding that STAP did not exist.

A container labeled “ES cells” was found in Obokata’s laboratory during the investigation, but Obokata denied mixing them, intentionally or unintentionally, with the specimens used in her research.

Last month, Obokata published a book recounting the controversy.

  • Alfonso

    She is cute

    • D. Diggler

      If you are into the android look…

    • D. Diggler

      If you are into the android look…

    • D. Diggler

      If you are into the android look…

    • D. Diggler

      If you are into the android look…

    • D. Diggler

      If you are into the android look…

    • D. Diggler

      If you are into the android look…

    • D. Diggler

      If you are into the android look…

    • D. Diggler

      If you are into the android look…

    • D. Diggler

      If you are into the android look…

    • Don Pierce

      But with quite a strikingly asymmetric face…

  • At Times Mistaken

    They say timing is everything and it seems like the timing of this investigation makes it seem more in connection with Obokata’s tell-all book that came out last month than to a reported theft that occurred nearly half a decade ago.

  • KenjiAd

    Some pathetic soul was jealous of the favoritism given to Obokata at one point, took advantage of her fall from the stardom, and threw her under the bus.

    The police was obligated to investigate, interviewing everyone, though well aware that nothing would come out. I mean, this was a five-year old theft reported 4 years later.

    Nonstory.

  • KenjiAd

    Some pathetic soul was jealous of the favoritism given to Obokata at one point, took advantage of her fall from the stardom, and threw her under the bus.

    The police was obligated to investigate, interviewing everyone, though well aware that nothing would come out. I mean, this was a five-year old theft reported 4 years later.

    Nonstory.

    • Shinsakan

      Or maybe someone was upset that on top of probably getting away with stealing the cells to swap them back then that she is now even profiting from her fraud and misconduct. I know I would be! But I agree that the police investigation seems to be just pro forma and they probably know that nothing will come of it. I hope it were different though. I don’t think that she deserves to go to jail, but it would really be nice to see her finally take responsibility for her actions, even if she is forced to.

    • Shinsakan

      Or maybe someone was upset that on top of probably getting away with stealing the cells to swap them back then that she is now even profiting from her fraud and misconduct. I know I would be! But I agree that the police investigation seems to be just pro forma and they probably know that nothing will come of it. I hope it were different though. I don’t think that she deserves to go to jail, but it would really be nice to see her finally take responsibility for her actions, even if she is forced to.

  • Kessek

    Jesus. The biggest nonstory of 2015 just won’t die.