May 28, 2014 9:00 pm JST

Embattled scientist Obokata to retract 1 of 2 STAP cell papers

OSAKA (Kyodo) -- Embattled Japanese scientist Haruko Obokata has agreed to retract one of two STAP cell research papers from the journal Nature, while maintaining she will not retract the other major paper, her lawyer said Wednesday.

     It is the first time that the 30-year-old researcher from the state-backed Riken institute has agreed to have a paper retracted in connection with the high-profile study that quickly drew questions and allegations of misconduct.

     Along with Obokata, who led the study into the stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency cells, two other main co-authors have given their consent to retract it, sources close to the matter said.

     Of the three researchers, University of Yamanashi professor Teruhiko Wakayama is responsible for the paper Obokata has agreed to retract, being engaged in all experiments, and Obotaka wrote it under his guidance, her lawyer Hideo Miki said.

     She has e-mailed the other main co-author Yoshiki Sasai, deputy director of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, that she would have no problems if Wakayama wants to retract it, according to the lawyer.

     The paper was published as a "letter" in the journal's Jan. 30 edition, accompanying the other paper published in the form of an "article."
Riken found in March after investigating the two papers that Obokata falsified or fabricated images used in the article. The scientist says she simply made mistakes without malicious intent.

     While the research letter has 11 co-authors and Nature in principle requires that consent be obtained from all co-authors to have a research paper retracted, the chances are good that it be retracted now that the three main co-authors have agreed to do so.

     The paper purported to show that an embryonic mouse created with STAP cells can develop into a placenta, thus more versatile than embryonic stem cells, which are known to lack the ability to develop into certain parts of a placenta.

     The images of two mice presented in the paper as each showing the outcome of a different experiment related to STAP cells, however, have turned out to be those of just one mouse photographed separately.
The STAP papers attracted global attention as the authors claimed they developed an innovative and easier way to create stem cells that are capable of growing into any mouse body tissue.