The Riken research institute has released a rare statement asking that its researchers be given "a quiet environment" to continue their research, in response to the suicide of its stem cell researcher Yoshiki Sasai earlier this week.

In a statement posted on its website Thursday, the state-backed institute said that many of its researchers are experiencing huge mental stress, as the death of Sasai, deputy director of the institute's Center for Developmental Biology and a world-renowned stem cell researcher, continues to reverberate.

Sasai, 52, hanged himself from a stairway handrail in a building at Riken's facility in Kobe on Tuesday.

"Our inability to prevent the premature death of Sasai ... who has led the world's regenerative medicine research, grieves us most," the statement read. "What's important now is to keep this unfortunate incident from inflicting further damage on researchers around him, and to prevent unexpected incidents accompanied by the mental stress of those affected."

The institute came under heavy criticism and scrutiny after its research on so-called STAP cells, led by Haruko Obokata and supervised by Sasai, was found to contain serious flaws, leading to retractions of papers published in January in the British science journal Nature.

The institute needs "a bit of time and a quiet environment" as it continues its probe into the STAP scandal and comes up with a plan to reform itself, the statement said.

"Currently, not just authors of the (STAP) papers but other scientists on the ground, especially young researchers, engineers, administrators, as well as their friends and families, are facing severe shock and anxiety, and some are enormously distressed. ... We sincerely hope for understanding and cooperation from everyone on our efforts to alleviate their mental stress."