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RIKEN to investigate STAP papers yet again

RIKEN, Japan's network of national labs, today announced a new investigation into two papers reporting a sensational but now-discredited way of making stem cells. A brief announcement on RIKEN’s website states that the committee will look into issues concerning the papers and related cell lines that have emerged since a previous committee probing for research misconduct completed its work. The earlier committee found lead author Haruko Obokata, of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, guilty of research misconduct for fabrications and falsifications in the papers, published online in Nature on 29 January, which describe a strikingly simple way of deriving stem cells called STAP, for stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency. Nature retracted the papers on 2 July.

One possible target of the investigation is the apparent introduction of material from a mouse strain not being used in the experiments into the STAP cell lines. A RIKEN official told Science that the committee members are still being selected and that their names will not be made public until they complete their report.

A third RIKEN-appointed committee recommended institutional reforms in the wake of the debacle. Another panel reported on 27 August that so far it has been unable to reproduce the STAP results following the protocol given in the papers.