The research findings claim that the research team
led by Haruko Obokata
was able to discover an unexpected phenomenon of somatic cell reprogramming
into pluripotent cells by exposure to sublethal stimuli. The discovered
phenomenon indicates that after experiencing sublethal stimuli such as a low-pH
exposure the somatic cells regain pluripotency. According to findings, the
expositor of splenic CD 45+ to pH 5.7 for 30 Minutes and subsequently cultured
in the presence of LIF, a substantial portion of surviving cells start to
express the pluripotent cell marker Oct4 at day 2. Moreover, pluripotent cell
clusters form with a bona fide pluripotency marker profile and acquire the
competence for three-germ-layer differentiation by day 7. The researchers argue
that these stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency cells can also
efficiently contribute to chimaera mice and undergo germline transmission using
a blastocyst injection.
Although these characteristics resemble those of ES
cells, STAP cells seem to differ from ES cells in their limited capacity for
self-renewal (typically, for only a few passages) and in their vulnerability to
dissociation1. However, when cultured in the presence of ACTH and LIF for
7?days, STAP cells, at a moderate frequency, further convert into pluripotent
‘stem’ cells that robustly proliferate “STAP stem cells”. STAP is the bridge to
long held goals of patient specific drug development, advanced disease modelling,
and the ability to regenerate body parts without the risk of immune system
rejection or cancerous cell.
Thus, it will allow scientists to develop a radical
and remarkably easy way to make stimulus-triggered
acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells that could be grown
into tissue for use anywhere in the body.
2014 was one of the hardest years
for the 30 years old scientist Haruko Obokata, the
head of her own laboratory, at that time, at the Riken Centre
for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, Japan. Haruko Obokata was thriving
in the world of stem cell research which is considered as a male dominated field.
The new thriving star in the scientific firmament, Haruko Obokata, was considered
by many people at that time as national hero. Unfortunately, it was a
short-lived glory and her fall from grace spectacular, completed in several
In January 2014, when Obokata published two
breakthrough articles in Nature, which recognized as a top science journal. Obokata and
her team clamed that they were able to turn body cells into embryonic stem cells.
days of her publishing her two papers in Nature, disturbing allegations started
to rise in social media and science blogs. Some of her images looked
doctored, and chunks of her text were lifted from other papers. Riken Centre for Developmental Biology started
their investigations soon after these claims came up. Thus, on the 1st
of April, Riken announced
its findings, which stated that Haruko Obokata was found guilty of scientific misconduct.
public shaming soon followed. The news / social media built her up and it was
more than happy to tear her down over and over. The guilty Obokata faced a challenging
press conference and broadcast live on TV. Standing in front of all these
reporters, Haruko Obokata was
apologising, bowing, answering questions. However, she maintained that her
stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells really do exist.
the beginning, all her collaborators believed and stood firmly by her, but no
one else was able to make it work even though her method where really simple.
Thus, one after another they gave up and requested Nature to retract the two articles.
In June of 2014, Obokata requested to retract the
articles. Surprisingly, with the retraction of the two papers, the most damning
piece of evidence came out. A genetic analysis proved that the
stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, STAP, cells didn’t match the
genetic analysis of the mice from which they supposedly came. According to her
lawyer, Haruko Obokata, “couldn’t understand how that was possible.” But the
obvious, and rather depressing, explanation is that her so-called STAP cells
were just regular embryonic stem cells that someone had taken from a freezer
Sasai was one of the scientist that singled out for criticism, deputy director
of Riken and Obokata’s supervisor. A well-respected stem cell scientist, Sasai
was, in his own words, “overwhelmed with shame”. In the 5th of
August, after a month in hospital for depression, the 52 years old committed suicide in a
stairwell at a research facility opposite the CDB, leaving behind three
farewell notes. According to Japan Times, The one he addressed to Obokata contained this
plea, “Be sure to reproduce STAP cells.”
Riken offered Obokata a golden opportunity to honor Sasai’s dying wish.
Instated of firing Obokata, Riken decided to keep her on, allowing her to help
a team of researchers reproduce her work. After
eight months of effort, the team admitted defeat and Obokata, claiming to be
“extremely perplexed.” The name Obokata had joined the ranks of some very
distinguished biomedical fraudsters.
Responsibility is the price of greatness. This
research is different than any other experiment because stem cell research lies
at the core of human desires. Human want to understand our origins
and to defeat death. Also, the huge amount of money and prestige waiting for a
researcher to clam. It make me feel more confident in the scientific community
when I saw how fast her work was exposed. As
soon as Obokata published her work
and claimed that she created the stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency
(STAP) cells, other researchers tried to redo the experiment, but they failed.
research is very important, and it is strictly regulated, and wet lab
procedures better established. The internet and social media played have very
major role in this case, making it faster and easier for scientists to compare
notes and spot errors.
One of the cornerstones of modern science is Reproducibility.
Unless an experiment can be repeated again and again by different researchers,
each time yielding similar results, it can’t be said to prove anything much. At
least that’s the theory.
There are a lot of published papers
and experiments every day, and it is impossible to look closely to each one of
them. However, as scientists we follow a code because we owe the tax papers and
the scientific community the truth and nothing but the truth. Obokata insisted
that she had been made a scapegoat, and I disagree because the scientific
community made an example out of her. “All
Japanese media reported and concluded that Dr. Wakayama is a victim, and
Obokata is an absolute scoundrel, she wrote.