A leading Japanese research institute on Wednesday released new tips on methods its scientists used to create stem cells in hopes of dispelling skepticism over what has been touted as a breakthrough technique.
The Riken Center for Developmental Biology said additional procedural methods for the studies led by Riken biologist Haruko Obokata will be released on the British journal Nature’s online Protocol Exchange site where scientists share their experimental know-how. A PDF version is already available on Riken’s Web site.
The 10-page report said it hoped the technical advice would answer frequently asked questions about experimental details. It also said the scientists involved in the study were now preparing to release a full report with step-by-step instructions. The Riken scientists said they had “reproducibly observed” the conversion of body cells into stem cells “when proper procedures are followed in the correct sequence.”
A Riken spokesman said the institution believed the procedural advice would help improve chances of reproducing the results.
The studies, published January in Nature, were hailed as offering a safer, easier and more ethical way to create stem cells, but they have come under increased scrutiny after Riken opened an investigation into possible irregularities in images used in the studies. Riken said the investigation was continuing.
Scientists who were not involved in the Riken research have also said they are struggling to create stem cells using the new method, despite closely following the procedure described in the Nature articles.
Pluripotent stem cells can turn into almost any type of bodily cell, potentially providing new treatments for numerous ailments, but existing ways to create them entail the risk of cancer or can raise ethical concerns because they involve embryos.
The new stem-cell studies caused a stir because they described how the blood cells of mice could be rapidly changed into an embryonic-like state simply by dipping them in a mild acid solution. The ease and speed of the technique promised to offer a better route for making patient-specific tissue.