FLICKR, RAINER STROPEKIn a post to his department’s website dated September 3, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Charles Vacanti, who was a coauthor on the two now-retracted stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) studies, detailed a new protocol for generating these stem cells. Vacanti first published a revised protocol to the Brigham and Women’s website in March, at a time when several researchers were reporting difficulties replicating his team’s results following the methods that were published two months earlier in Nature. The new protocol includes the additional use of “ATP as a supplemental source of energy with two very effective stresses to achieve the desired result,”Vacanti and his coauthor Koji Kojima wrote.
In February, as suspicions were raised online regarding figures from the publications, Vacanti told The Scientist: “I believe that these concerns are a result of minor errors that occurred in the manuscript editing process...
Following the procedure Vacanti posted in March, Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Kenneth Lee and his colleagues reported on ResearchGate having achieved limited success. Later that same week, however, Lee wrote: “Personally, I don’t think STAP cells exist and it will be a waste of manpower and research funding to carry on with this experiment any further.”
Still, Vacanti stood behind the STAP method, even as lead author Haruko Obokata was found by her institution to have committed research misconduct in connection with the studies and the two papers were retracted.
“We made a significant mistake in our original declaration that the protocol was ‘easy’ to repeat,” Vacanti and Kojima noted in this latest update to the revised protocol. “This was our belief at the time, but it turned out to be incorrect. . . . The revised protocol below should increase the likelihood of success.”
But as stem cell researcher Paul Knoepfler from the University of California, Davis, wrote at his blog, to date “nobody has been able to make STAP cells in replication efforts including Obokata herself.”