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Science

Embattled scientist helping Riken replicate stem cell studies

OSAKA -- A Riken cell biologist who has been accused by the government-affiliated research institute of doctoring groundbreaking papers on stem cells is now advising the organization as it tries to reproduce the experiments.

     Haruko Obokata was the lead author of a pair of papers in the journal Nature that described a new technique for producing stem cells through a process called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP.

     Riken has been working since April to replicate these experiments to verify the existence of STAP cells.

     The replication efforts are being carried out by researchers including Hitoshi Niwa, a Riken project leader who was a co-author of the papers. Obokata, who has been found to have falsified images used in the papers, is not part of this team. But she is still a researcher at Riken as the organization's disciplinary committee has yet to decide on disciplinary steps.

     The team apparently sought Obokata's input because it was having trouble producing STAP cells, a process she has described as tricky. Obokata is reportedly providing advice from the hospital where she is staying.

     For Obokata, successfully replicating the experiments would prove that STAP cells do exist despite the problems with her studies. But her participation could cast a shadow over Riken's attempt to show that the experiments can be reproduced independently, likely leading to calls for the participation of researchers not affiliated with the institute.

(Nikkei)

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