• Kyodo


The Riken research institute said Tuesday that former employee Haruko Obokata did not file an appeal in response to a report by its investigative panel that her debunked STAP cells were likely created instead from embryonic stem cells.

This means that fresh allegations of fabrications regarding her stem cell research, pointed out Dec. 26 by the institute’s panel made up of outside experts, have been finalized.

Riken said Obokata was given a copy of the panel’s findings last month and had until Monday to raise an objection.

The panel’s report said that the stem cells Obokata called STAP were most likely embryonic stem (ES) cells that had been mixed into the experiments.

The seven-member independent panel of experts did not draw a conclusion as to who introduced the ES cells or whether their introduction was intentional or accidental.

Obokata has yet to comment publicly on the report, but on the day of its release her lawyer, Hideo Miki, said the possibility that Obokata mixed in the ES cells was “unthinkable.”

The government-backed institute will resume deliberating on possible penalties against her, but whatever conclusion its disciplinary committee reaches will mean little since the 31-year-old scientist has resigned from the institute.

The investigative panel, launched in September, roundly condemned Obokata and her co-authors, raising several fresh allegations that she fabricated data.

Obokata, formerly a researcher at Riken’s Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, left the institute last month after failing to reproduce the cells in supervised experiments.

Her research was initially lauded as a breakthrough when it was published in the British journal Nature last January, offering the potential to easily produce cells capable of forming any kind of tissue without the controversial use of fertilized eggs.

The allegations of data falsification and fabrication soon piled up around Obokata, and Nature retracted the papers in July.