Critical Errors In 'Game-Changing' Stem Cell Discovery Force Retraction Of Papers

Haruko Obokata, a scientist at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan, speaks in Kobe, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo January 28, 2014.REUTERS/KyodoThomson ReutersHaruko Obokata, a scientist at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan, speaks in front of a screen showing Stimulus-Triggered Acquisition of Pluripotency (STAP) cells, in Kobe

A stem cell paper published by a team of Japanese and American scientists in the influential journal Nature has been retracted due to “several critical errors,” the journal said on Wednesday.

The research, which when published in January was described as game-changing by many experts in the field, was subsequently investigated by Japan’s RIKEN scientific institute, which “categorized some of the errors as misconduct” Nature said.

The paper, led at RIKEN by Japanese researcher Haruko Obokata, detailed simple ways to reprogram mature animal cells back to an embryonic-like state, allowing them to generate many different types of cells — suggesting hope for a way of replacing damaged cells or growing new organs in humans.

Obokata initially staunchly defended her work in the face of serious doubt and criticisms, but last month agreed to retract the papers.

Nature confirmed the retraction on Wednesday, saying “multiple errors impair the credibility of the study as a whole.”

“Ongoing studies are investigating this phenomenon afresh, but given the extensive nature of the errors currently found, we consider it appropriate to retract both papers,” it said in a statement.

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