HARUKO OBOKATAAn author of the controversial stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) stem cell papers, published in Nature last month, has requested that the studies be retracted. In a press conference held in Japan yesterday (March 10), Teruhiko Wakayama of Yamanashi University, who coauthored both papers, asked that the journal withdraw the STAP studies because of lingering questions about alleged image duplication and because many groups have had difficulty reproducing his team’s results.
Just last week (March 5), Wakayama’s team released a more-detailed protocol in an attempt to help other teams successfully achieve STAP. In the time since, however, anonymous tipsters have raised additional questions about the validity of the work. Nature said it is investigating these claims.
In an e-mail to The Wall Street Journal, Wakayama said he has asked lead author Haruko Obokata of RIKEN to also request a retraction. “There is no more credibility when there are such crucial mistakes,” he said. Obokata has not spoken publicly about the work since the papers were published.
But coauthor Charles Vacanti from Harvard Medical School said he stands by the work. “Some mistakes were made, but they don’t affect the conclusions,” he said. “It would be very sad to have such an important paper retracted as a result of peer pressure, when indeed the data and conclusions are honest and valid.”
Stem cell researchers who were not involved in the work are withholding judgment until more data is made available. “I’m waiting to hear from several serious stem cell labs around the world on whether they have been able to reproduce the methods,” the UK National Institute for Medical Research’s Robin Lovell-Badge told Reuters.
“If the technique is robust and highly reproducible it will be replicated quickly. If there are subtleties and nuances of the technique, then it will take longer,” the Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s George Daley, who is now working with Vacanti on the STAP technique, told The Boston Globe. “Only time will tell, and this is how science works.”