The exciting new discovery may have been due to contamination.
The latest development in the scandal surrounding Japanese stem cell researcher Haruko Obokata’s discovery of a new type of pluripotent cells is that it may have never existed.
Obokata’s two papers in Nature early this year claimed that cells could revert to an embryonic-like state if they were stressed by bathing them in acid or if they were placed under physical pressure. These have been discredited because of doctored images and instance of plagiarism. But she still insists that STAP (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) cells do exist.
However, according to a report in Nature News, one of her co-authors, Teruhiko Wakayama of Yamanashi University, has tested 20 stem cell lines created with the STAP method. He found that that none of them match the mouse strains from which they were taken. This suggests that the cell lines had been contaminated and that the STAP phenomenon has never actually been demonstrated.
The investigation continues.
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