Stem cell controversy hits Japan

2014-04-02 13:30
Researchers have presented evidence for the existence of cancer stem cells. (AP)

Researchers have presented evidence for the existence of cancer stem cells. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Tokyo - The finding that a lead researcher falsified data in a widely heralded stem cell research paper is a setback for Japan's efforts to promote its advanced research, but also a symptom of the pressure for breakthroughs in the field, experts say.

The government-funded Riken Centre for Development Biology in Kobe, western Japan said on Tuesday it had found malpractice by scientist Haruko Obokata in the work on using a simple lab procedure to grow tissue for treating illnesses such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

Obokata disputed the allegations, saying in a statement issued by Riken that she plans to appeal the findings issued by a committee set up to investigate discrepancies in the research published in January in the scientific journal Nature.

Nature has refused comment on whether the article might be retracted but said it is conducting its own evaluation and considering Riken's findings.

While Obokata alone was blamed for manipulating images of DNA fragments used in the research, Riken's director Ryoji Noyori held her co-authors "gravely responsible" for negligence in failing to fully verify their findings.

Gender equality

"The Riken incident says much more about the pressures to publish, and the harsh competition in stem cell research, than it does about Japan, I think," Ivan Oransky, global editorial director of MedPage Today, a news service for doctors, said in an e-mail.

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 developments at Riken are a setback for government efforts to market Japan's research and development expertise as a 21st century industry needed to revitalise the country's manufacturing.

Arthur Caplan, an expert on bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Centre, said the doubts about the research are a "devastating blow" for Japanese science.

"The government has invested in cutting edge bioscience to promote Japan's economy, so the revelation of fraud and misconduct at a major institute is both an embarrassment for the government and a huge setback for the Japanese research community," he said.

Noyori, the Riken director, said that after allowing for an appeal, disciplinary action would be taken, including calling for retraction of the suspect paper.

Scientists hope to harness stem cells to replace defective tissue in a wide variety of diseases. Making stem cells from a patient would eliminate the risk of transplant rejection.

Findings

The researchers in Boston and Japan participating in the project used a simple procedure to turn ordinary cells from mice into stem cells by exposing cells from spleens of newborn mice to a more acidic environment than they are used to.

Cells from other tissue of newborn mice appeared to go through the same change if exposed to any of a variety of stressful situations, the researchers said.

Shunsuke Ishii, chair of the investigating panel at Riken, told reporters on Tuesday that Obokata had said she altered images used in the research to make the results "look more beautiful". Data she recorded also was fragmented and incomplete, he said. Obokata said some of the images were chosen by mistake.

The institute said it would take months more to determine whether the stem cell findings are valid regardless of any questions about the data. Obokata asserts the findings are genuine.

Noyori warned against any "personal attacks or violations of human rights of the authors", vowing to revamp the ethical standards, training and procedures at Riken, a prestigious institution founded in 1917 by Eiichi Shibusawa, a leading Japanese industrialist.

"Research misconduct occurred due to a young researcher's lack of experience and awareness of the importance of research ethics," Noyori said.

Obokata has not recently appeared in public and Juliette Savin, a spokesperson for Riken, said that she could not comment on her status.

The longer-term implications of the case will depend on how it is handled, said Oransky.

"Riken seems to have acted swiftly and mostly transparently, and that's a good thing," he said.
- AP
Read more on:    japan  |  stem cell research  |  genetics
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
6 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Fashion
 

6 life hacks you simply have to know

A few simple tricks can make your life so much easier!

 
 

For chic geeks...

Device lets disabled people talk through their nose
It’s THIS easy for someone to steal your ATM pin!
This is why you should install iOS 8
17 photo illusions that look so real

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at kalahari.com

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at kalahari.com

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something may be bothering you. A flooded mind and impulsive reactions are not a good combination as you are not thinking clearly....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.