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Stem Cell Scientists Guilty of Misconduct, Panel Rules

mouse fetus
The studies reported that the new method for making stem cells was used to create an entire mouse fetus. (Image credit: Haruko Obokata)

A biologist in Japan who recently reported a relatively fast and easy method for creating embryonic stem cells has been found guilty of scientific misconduct, a committee announced today (April 1), NPR reported.

Haruko Obokata, of the RIKEN Centers for Developmental Biology in Japan, authored two studies published in January in the journal Nature detailing a new way to produce stem cells, which are cells that have the potential to develop into many kinds of tissue, by exposing them to a mildly acidic environment.

The RIKEN Center began investigating claims of possible fraud in March, and the investigative panel now says it has found six errors in the studies, including four innocent mistakes, and two that involved intentionally manipulating data, Nature reported.

"Actions like this completely destroy data credibility," molecular biologist Shunsuke Ishii, chairman of the investigating committee, said at a news conference Tuesday in Tokyo.

Obokata claims the errors were all made innocently, and plans to appeal the panel's judgement.

The journal Nature is still investigating the studies, and has not yet retracted them.

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Tanya Lewis
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.