to replicate the STAP cell findings have not been successful so far, the RIKEN Institute
Hitoshi Niwa, who leads a team that has been trying to verify the
stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency or STAP phenomenon since April,
said: 'We're still midway, but there's a possibility that STAP cells don't
exist'. Dr Niwa is a co-author in the STAP studies and a principal investigator
at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe.
originally published in Nature in January this year, claimed that a simple
acid bath is able to trigger conversion of a type of blood cells into
pluripotent stem cells that can develop into any cell type in mice. The work attracted
worldwide attention and was considered a breakthrough in regenerative medicine,
but quickly faced criticism due to a number of errors.
investigating committee found lead author Dr Haruko Obokata guilty of research
misconduct, but cleared other co-authors. Eventually, the articles were
retracted at the beginning of July.
verification experiments, the team at RIKEN have been following the procedure
to create STAP cells as detailed in the original articles, using 'acid baths'
of spleen mouse cells. However, no activity from genes signifying that stem cells
have been created has been detected. The attempts will continue and other
conditions, such as use of other type of mice, organs and chemical stresses,
will be tested. Dr Obokata has also been given the chance of replicating her
work within RIKEN, but in a separate effort to Dr Niwa's team.
the lack of validity so far comes as another blow to the STAP saga. Dr Yoshiki
Sasai, who was the deputy director of the RIKEN Center for Development Biology
and also a co-author of the STAP studies, committed suicide at the beginning of
is expected to be completed by March 2015, and the results of both investigations
will be collated in a report assessing the fidelity of the original STAP
publications. The latest interim report does not include information about the
progress of Dr Obokata's work.
addressed the negative publicity of STAP research and its consequences by
announcing its plan to downsize the Center for Developmental Biology, renaming
it and re-launching it in November 2014 under new management. It has since
reported that the reform plan would be carried out 'not for the sake of RIKEN,
but for the sake of the society as a whole'.