Two scientific papers initially regarded as game changers in stem cell research have been retracted from the journal Nature which published them in January 2014 “after they were found to be riddled with critical errors.”
The lead author Haruko Obokata, working in Riken Center for Developmental Biology, after publication of this work, turned into an instant celebrity.
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.
But reports suggest that “this success 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.”
The panel said, for example, that one of the articles reused images related to lead writer Haruko Obokata's doctoral dissertation, which was on different experiments.
"Actions like this completely destroy data credibility," Shunsuke Ishii, head of the committee, told a news conference.
"There is no doubt that she was fully aware of this danger.”
"We've therefore concluded this was an act of research misconduct involving fabrication."
Following too many controversies, the papers were finally retracted from Nature.
“We apologize for the mistakes,” the authors wrote.
Nature stated it had concluded that its editors and the outside scientists who had reviewed the papers before publication “could not have detected the problems that fatally undermined the papers.” It said the reviewers “quite rightly took on trust what was presented in the papers.”
The editorial also included that the episode had “further highlighted flaws in Nature’s procedures” and sloppiness among scientists. It said steps were being taken to improve the rigor of reviews of submitted papers.