15 Feb 2014 13:38

Research institute probes 'irregularities' in images associated with STAP cell discovery

The Riken research institute said Feb. 14 it has begun an investigation into claims of irregularities in data images associated with the discovery of stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells.

The cells were recently discovered by a team of Japanese and U.S. researchers led by Haruko Obokata of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology.

"We do not believe that there is any problem with the findings themselves," commented Riken's public relations department in response to the allegations, which were made on several Internet sites.

Riken said its inquiry is being conducted by several experts including some not affiliated with the agency. The probe is focusing on two papers published Jan. 30 in the British journal Nature. The articles outline the process by which simply introducing stress to lymphocyte cells in mice can enable pluripotency, whereby the cells can turn into any other kind of body cells.

The claims include allegations that "some of the data images used in the essays appear to have been tampered with," and ones about the multiple use of a photo of the placenta claimed to have been created from STAP cells.

The inquiry began on Feb. 13, and Obokata and other team members were consulted on Feb. 13 and 14. Results of the probe will be announced as soon as a conclusion has been reached.

"At this point in time, our judgment is that the research findings are solid," a Riken representative commented. "However, we are undertaking an inquiry, since claims were made from outside the institution."

February 15, 2014(Mainichi Japan)