Newspaper article International New York Times

Errors Are Cited as Journal Retracts 2 Stem Cell Studies

Newspaper article International New York Times

Errors Are Cited as Journal Retracts 2 Stem Cell Studies

Article excerpt

The journal Nature said the papers -- which detailed an easy way to create stem cells -- were filled with errors and had not been verified.

Two scientific papers that initially electrified biologists by describing an easy way to make stem cells have been retracted by the journal that published them after they were found to be riddled with "critical errors."

The papers, published in Nature in January, were a source of pride in Japan, where much of the research had been done in the government-backed Riken Center for Developmental Biology. The lead scientist, Haruko Obokata, became an instant celebrity.

But pride soon turned to embarrassment as one error after another came to light, and an internal investigation by Riken concluded that Ms. Obokata had misrepresented or altered images.

So far, independent scientists have not reproduced the work described in the papers, raising substantial doubts about whether the simple way to produce stem cells really exists.

"We apologize for the mistakes," the authors of the two papers wrote in a retraction.

"These multiple errors impair the credibility of the study as a whole, and we are unable to say without doubt whether the STAP-SC phenomenon is real," they wrote. "Ongoing studies are investigating this phenomenon afresh, but given the extensive nature of the errors currently found, we consider it appropriate to retract both papers."

STAP-SC stands for stem cells resulting from stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency. The researchers reported in January that regular cells taken from the body could be turned into stem cells by simply exposing them to stress, as by dipping them in an acid bath.

That seemed to provide an easy way to create multipurpose stem cells that could then be turned into different types of tissues, which might one day be used to treat diseases or repair injuries. …

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