TOKYO—The case of Japanese researcher Hisashi Moriguchi is growing stranger by the day. Last week, Moriguchi's claim, in a paper scheduled to be presented at a meeting in New York, that he had performed a breakthrough stem cell transplant on cardiac patients began to unravel when Harvard University and the University of Tokyo denied any knowledge of the purported experiment.
But the story was far from over. Several of the co-authors listed by Moriguchi on a draft paper given to Japanese reporters describing the work denied any involvement; and a co-author of a previously published Moriguchi paper said his name was included without his knowledge. In its Saturday morning edition, Yomiuri Shimbun, which had trumpeted the stem cell experiment on its front page 2 days earlier, apologized to its readers, saying it had determined the stories were false. Peppered with questions from Japanese reporters at a press conference in New York, where he had been attending a conference, Moriguchi admitted to lying. Still, he insisted the procedure had been carried out on one patient in mid-2011 at a hospital in Boston, but he refused to identify the hospital or his collaborators.
Moriguchi continues to stick to that story. Today in Tokyo, he went straight to the University of Tokyo, known locally as Todai, from Narita International Airport and met the hospital's investigating team. Nobuhito Saito, a neurosurgeon who is the hospital's vice director for education and research, told a packed news conference Monday evening Tokyo time that they didn't want to rush to judgment until all the facts were in. Saito said Moriguchi insisted he had developed a new method for creating induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, and the procedure had, in fact, been carried out. Saito said that because, among other things, Moriguchi could not name his collaborators, there were doubts about whether a surgery took place and other questions about his explanations of events.