TOKYO—Nature today published a retraction of two controversial papers that had reported a new, astoundingly simple way of generating pluripotent stem cells. The retraction notice—for an article and a letter written by Haruko Obokata of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, Japan, and colleagues there, at other institutions in Japan, and at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School—had been expected for some time.
The two papers reporting the stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) phenomenon appeared online on 29 January. Questions about the papers arose almost immediately, leading to an investigation by RIKEN, the headquarters of the network of the nationally funded laboratories that is based in Wako near Tokyo. Investigators documented several instances of fabrication and falsification in the papers and concluded that some of these constituted research misconduct on the part of Obokata.
Japanese media recently reported that authors had agreed to retract the papers but were discussing the wording of the notice. In the note that appeared today, the authors point to errors previously identified by RIKEN investigations in supplementary documents. They also identify additional errors in both papers, including mix-ups in images, mislabeling, faulty descriptions, and "inexplicable discrepancies in genetic background and transgene insertion sites between the donor mice and the reported" STAP cells.
"These multiple errors impair the credibility of the study as a whole and we are unable to say without doubt whether the [STAP stem cell] phenomenon is real. 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," the authors write.
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