One of the two highly controversial papers published this year in the prestigious journal Nature that describe a potentially groundbreaking method to produce stem cells is set to be retracted, according to recent reports.
The paper, entitled Bidirectional Developmental Potential in Reprogrammed Cells With Acquired Pluripotency, is a continuation of another paper by the same authors which detailed a novel method to reprogram adult cells into pluripotent (cells that can become virtually any cell in the body) cells by exposing them to sublethal doses of acid. The method was coined stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP), and this particular publication described the versatility of these cells.
Shortly after the papers were published, fellow scientists began to question the methodology since they were unable to replicate the results. Furthermore, images of two supposedly different mice in the paper which were provided as evidentiary support for a STAP related experiment turned out to be same mouse.
Lead author of the studies, Haruko Obokata, was found guilty of scientific misconduct back in April by Japan’s Riken Center for Developmental Biology. Since this finding, Riken have encouraged Obokata to withdraw the two papers, however, Obokata defended herself and insisted the simply made mistakes and did not deliberately falsify the results.
According to sources closely involved in the situation, Obokata and two other co-authors of the eleven in total have given consent to a partial retraction, i.e. only one of the papers. They have agreed to the withdrawal of the paper mentioned above but not the main publication which first detailed the method, since Obokata maintains that she successfully replicated the results on several occasions.
Further details on the situation are expected to be released shortly.