Doubt mount about new stem cell paper

Michael Cook
13 March 2014
Reproduced with Permission

The world's leading science journal, Nature, may end up with egg on its face as complaints mount about a recent paper on a radical new method of creating pluripotent stem cells.

One of the co-authors, Japanese stem cell scientist Teruhiko Wakayama, has called for the paper to be retracted after problems surfaced with the images and allegations of plagiarism. He now says that he is not sure that the cells given to him were really created by the technique. "I have lost faith in the paper," he told Japanese media. "Overall there are now just too many uncertainties about it. I think we have to wait for some confirmation."

The original paper about "stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency" (STAP) cells was published in Nature on January 30. A team led by Haruko Obokata of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, claimed that it had developed a way to reprogram cells to an embryonic state by bathing them in an acidic solution. The idea was so simple, yet so radical, that other scientists reacted with both amazement and scepticism. At the moment, the second emotion is dominant.