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About-face in Japan

A research study of a new method for producing stem cells by placing mature cells in an acid medium—known as stimulus-triggered activation of pluripotency (STAP)—was the focus of an investigation aimed at finding evidence of scientific misconduct. The study, published in the journal Nature in January 2014, was led by scientists from the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Japan, and has sent ripples throughout the scientific community. The principal author of the study, Haruko Obokata, 30, has been accused by the Riken Center’s disciplinary committee of intentionally fabricating and manipulating data. The cited evidence of fraud included undated fragments of laboratory notes and an image that was reportedly used earlier in the researcher’s doctoral thesis. Obokata claims that the image was added by mistake. In an interview given to Nature, the researcher said the decision was “unacceptable” and that she will appeal it in court. In a note, Nature stated that it would not comment on the case until it conducted its own probe into the findings of the research conducted by the Japanese institution.