Japanese stem cell researcher to be punished for faking research results

By Daniel S Levine,

Dr. Haruko Obokata, a rising Japanese scientist, will be punished by the Riken Center of Japan for allegedly falsifying the results of a major stem cell research study. Her findings were hailed around the world as a major step, but questions were raised after other scientists could not reproduce her results.

The Riken Center, a government-sponsored lab based in Kobe, Japan, said Tuesday that her work was fabricated to mislead the scientific community. According to The BBC, her study, published in the journal Nature, claimed to have found a new, ethical and cost-effective way to get at stem cells. These cells can become any body tissue and researchers believe they can help heal a variety of diseases.

While headlines from around the world hailed her major finding, Riken launched an investigation into the results last month, notes The AFP. There were even images used in the study that looked similar to some Obokata used in her 2011 doctoral dissertation.

Shunsuke Ishii, head of Riken's probe committee, told the media Tuesday that this “amounts to phony research or fabrication.” The head of the institute, Ryoji Noyori, declared in a statement that he will “rigorously punish relevant people after procedures in a disciplinary committee.”

Obokata is not going down without a fight, though. “I will file a complaint against Riken as it's absolutely impossible for me to accept this,” she said in a statement to the AFP.

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