Japan Lab Says Stem Cell Research Falsified
Data in a widely heralded stem-cell research paper was falsified, a Japanese government-funded laboratory said Tuesday, as the lead researcher accused of the malpractice denied any wrongdoing.
The research from the Riken Center for Development Biology in Kobe, western Japan, had been hailed as a possible breakthrough for growing tissue to treat illnesses such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease using a simple lab procedure.
But significant discrepancies in research published in January in scientific journal Nature led a panel of scientists at Riken to conclude they stemmed from falsified data.
They said researcher Haruko Obokata, the lead author of the paper in Nature, had manipulated or falsified images of DNA fragments used in the research.
"The investigation committee has concluded that Ms. Obokata is responsible for manipulation and therefore for research malpractice," said Shunsuke Ishii, the Riken scientist who led the committee charged with investigating allegations the work was falsified.
Obokata vehemently objected to the committee’s findings.
"I was outraged and shocked by the committee’s report," she said in a statement. "I cannot accept the finding, and I intend to make an appeal to Riken in coming days."
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made greater gender equality and female advancement in the workforce a plank of his economic revival strategy for Japan. But the recognition of Obokata, a fashionable young woman, as a leading scientist still made waves in conservative, male-dominated Japan.
The dispute over the research is also a setback for government efforts to market Japan’s research and development expertise as a 21st century industry needed to revitalize the country’s manufacturing.