On of her laboratory at the Riken Centre for

On the 30th of January in 2014 Obokata,
head of her laboratory at
the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology,
published two breakthrough articles in Nature. She and her colleagues
transformed the mouse blood cells into something similar to embryonic
stem cells. She put the blood cells in citric acid and waited for
half an hour. After that, the cells could reproduce and turn into any
type of cell in the body. So the blood cells became pluripotent.
After her two articles was
published, many allegations appeared in science blogs and on Twitter.
She put images in her article which looked doctored and parts of her
articles were copied from another paper. (Rasko and Power, 2015) A
figure, that showed electrophoresis gels, was problematic. In a
diagram one lane was switched to another. She did this because the
other lane was clearer. According to a committee, the switch was
intentionally misleading manipulation. Obokata used a figure in one
of her articles from her doctoral thesis that showed teratoma cells,
which had a broad-ranging developmental capacity made by putting
pressure on the membrane of the cells by pipette. However, in her
article she said that the cells had been stressed by acid. Obokata
said that it was an unintentional mistake. However, the committee
noticed that the captions were different, so the mistake was
intentional. (Cyranoski, 2014)
Riken began investigating and on
the 1st of April, Obokata was found to be guilty due to scientific
misconduct. Obokata apologised for all her mistakes, but she still
claimed that STAP (“stimulus-triggered acquisition of
pluripotency”) cells exist. Although her experimental procedure was
simple, no one could repeat it. So those who tried to do it, asked
Nature to retract Obokata’s articles. In June, Obokata also asked
Nature to retract her articles. Subsequently, genetic analysis
demonstrated that the STAP cells are not from those mice, which were
mentioned in the article. People found out that her STAP cells were
just embryonic stem cells, which were taken from the freezer and
relabelled. (Rasko and Power, 2015)
Yoshiki Sasai, who was Obokata’s
supervisor, was one of those who has been criticised. Sasai was
overwhelmed with shame. In early August, after a month in the
hospital for depression, Sasai committed suicide. She left behind
three farewell notes. One of them was addressed to Obokata and it
asked Obokata to reproduce STAP cells. Riken gave an opportunity to
Obokata and her team to make Sasai’s request possible. Obokata and
her team tried to reproduce STAP cells for eight months and in
December, they admitted that they cannot create STAP cells again.
Obokata was baffled by the fact that they could not reproduce STAP
cells and Obokata resigned. At the end of the year, Riken wrote a
final report about the happenings. The report said that Obokata had
falsified and fabricated data so her STAP cells were actually
embryonic stem cells and the swap was not accidental, although there
is not any proof that says the opposite. (Rasko and Power, 2015)


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