Controversy Around Stem Cell Discovery May lead To Retraction
March 14, 2014

Controversy Around Stem Cell Discovery May Lead To Retraction

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Japanese scientists who in January announced they developed a new method to create stem cells using blood cells and acid are considering retracting their study.

Scientists from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan announced earlier this year that they had discovered that dipping blood cells into acid could turn them into stem cells. This study was considered ground-breaking research in the field, but now the scientists are not so sure of their findings.

The team initially discovered the method in mice, finding that by simply exposing blood cells to acidic liquids, they would turn into stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency cells (STAP cells). They found that white blood cells in newborn mice were returned to a versatile state through the simple process. Creating stem cells in a lab this way would help grow cells to replenish organs damaged by disease or accident.

However, after the announcement of this discovery scientists from all over the world criticized the research because they could not repeat the method to create these cells. Other critics said photographs and sentences in the report were identical to those used in earlier theses.

RIKEN said it is establishing a third-party panel to investigate the content of the report and is planning to withdraw the claim about the achievement.

"We are making considerations including the option of recommending that the paper be retracted," Ryoji Noyori, who jointly won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2001, told a press briefing in Tokyo, according to AFP.

On Friday, Japanese media reported that Haruko Obokata, who published the findings in January, agreed that the research should be pulled back. A joint statement signed by the group of researchers from RIKEN, including Obokata, said the three were considering a possible retraction.

"The credibility of the papers have been brought into question, and from the perspective of research ethics, RIKEN is considering the possibility of retracting the two papers published in Nature," the statement said.

Charles Vacanti, a tissue engineer at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and co-author of the paper, has stuck by the results.

"It would be very sad to have such an important paper retracted as a result of peer pressure, when indeed the data and conclusions are honest and valid,” Vacanti told the Wall Street Journal.