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Haruko Obokata

haruko obokata, haruko obokata stem cell scandal
Haruko Obokata 小保方 晴子, Obokata Haruko, born 1983 is a former stem-cell biologist and research unit leader at Japan's Laboratory for Cellular Reprogramming, Riken Center for Developmental Biology[3][4] She claimed to have developed 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[5] Riken, however, eventually launched an investigation in response to allegations of irregularities in images appearing in several articles she authored, including the paper announcing the discovery of STAP cells[6][7][8] The ensuing scandal over STAP cells has since become one of the world's best-known scientific frauds alongside the Schön scandal and Hwang Woo-suk's cloning experiments[9][10][11][12][13]


  • 1 Early life and education
  • 2 Career
  • 3 Controversy
  • 4 Selected works
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links

Early life and education

Obokata was born in Matsudo, Chiba, Japan, in 1983 She attended Toho Senior High School, which is attached to Toho University, and graduated from Waseda University At Waseda University, Obokata undertook undergraduate studies in the Department of Applied Chemistry, within the School of Science and Engineering, earning a Bachelor of Science in 2006, and graduate studies in the Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering, earning a Master of Science in Applied Chemistry in 2008

After completing her master's, Obokata went on to study stem cells and regenerative medicine at the Institute of Advanced Biomedical Engineering and Science, a cooperative research and education facility operated with Tokyo Women's Medical University She then undertook research at Harvard Medical School in Boston under Charles Vacanti for two years before returning to Waseda University to complete her PhD in Engineering, again, from the Graduate School of Advanced Engineering and Science in 2011[14][15] According to a recent Asahi Shimbun news report, Obokata had offered to retract her doctoral dissertation following allegations that she may have copied and pasted some segments of her dissertation from publicly available documents posted in the US National Institute of Health website[16]

In October 2014, an investigative panel appointed by Waseda University gave Obokata one year to revise her PhD dissertation or lose her degree[17] One year later, Waseda University announced that it was revoking Obokata's PhD[18]


Obokata became a guest researcher at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in 2011, then she was appointed as head of the Lab for Cellular Reprogramming in 2013[19][20] In 2014, she published two papers in the journal Nature

  • Obokata, Haruko; Wakayama, Teruhiko; Sasai, Yoshiki; et al 2014 "Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency" Nature 505 7485: 641–647 doi:101038/nature12968 PMID 24476887 
  • Obokata, Haruko; Sasai, Yoshiki; Niwa, Hitoshi; Vacanti, Charles; Andrabi, Munazah; Takata, Nozomu; Tokoro, Mikiko; Terashita, Yukari; Yonemura, Shigenobu; Vacanti, Charles A; Wakayama, Teruhiko January 30, 2014 "Bidirectional developmental potential in reprogrammed cells with acquired pluripotency" Nature Nature 505 7485: 676–680 Bibcode:2014Natur505676O doi:101038/nature12969 PMID 24476891 


Within a few weeks of publication, questions were raised about the publication ethics of Obokata’s papers published in Nature Professor Teruhiko Wakayama, a senior author of the Nature articles, proposed retracting the papers and re-submitting them if the findings could be reproduced The Japanese government affiliated research institute Riken also launched an investigation into the issue Stem cell critics also noted that the images in the published articles are very similar to those published in Obokata's doctoral thesis, which were from a quite different project than the Nature publications[21] On April 1, Riken announced that it had found Obokata guilty of scientific misconduct on two of the six charges initially brought against her[22] The Riken investigators reached the following conclusion:

In manipulating the image data of two different gels and using data from two different experiments, Dr Obokata acted in a manner that can by no means be permitted This cannot be explained solely by her immaturity as a researcher Given the poor quality of her laboratory notes it has become clearly evident that it will be extremely difficult for anyone else to accurately trace or understand her experiments, and this, too, is considered a serious obstacle to healthy information exchange Dr Obokata’s actions and sloppy data management lead us to the conclusion that she sorely lacks, not only a sense of research ethics, but also integrity and humility as a scientific researcher[23]

On June 4, 2014, Obokata agreed to retract both the papers published in Nature in early 2014[24] Nature confirmed the retraction on July 2[25][26]

In July 2014, Obokata was allowed to join Riken’s efforts to verify her original results under monitoring by a third party She tried to replicate her own study using genetically manipulated mouse spleen cells that glow green if a gene indicative of pluripotency is activated She failed to reproduce the ‘STAP cell’ to back up her claimed discovery[27]

On August 5, 2014, Obokata's mentor and co-author Yoshiki Sasai committed suicide[28] He had been cleared of misconduct, but also criticized for inadequate supervision of Obokata[29]

Obokata announced her resignation from Riken in December 2014[30][31]

Selected works

See also

  • Academic dishonesty
  • Scientific misconduct
  • Masayuki Yamato
  • List of scientific misconduct incidents


  1. ^ "STAP cell pioneer nearly gave up on her research" The Asahi Shimbun January 30, 2014 Archived from the original on January 30, 2014 
  2. ^ "Obokata had free way of thinking since childhood" The Japan News Yomiuri Shimbun February 2, 2014 Retrieved February 3, 2014 
  3. ^ Cyranoski, David January 29, 2014 "Acid bath offers easy path to stem cells" Nature 
  4. ^ "Laboratory for Cellular Reprogramming" RIKEN 
  5. ^ "Stem cell 'major discovery' claimed" BBC January 29, 2014 
  6. ^ "Research institute probes 'irregularities' in images associated with STAP cell discovery" Mainichi February 15, 2014 
  7. ^ "On the articles of Haruko Obokata, who discovered STAP cells" stapcellblogspotcom Feb 13, 2014 
  8. ^ "PubPeer : "Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency"" pubpeercom Feb 13, 2014 
  9. ^ "From stem cells to physics fraudulent science results are plenty but hard to find" Deutsche Welle June 6, 2014 Retrieved June 6, 2014 
  10. ^ "Stem cell debacle déjà vu" Bio Edge April 6, 2014 Retrieved April 6, 2014 
  11. ^ "STAP論文を「世界三大研究不正」の1つに認定" 日経BPネット June 13, 2014 Retrieved June 13, 2014 
  12. ^ "STAP細胞が『世界3大研究不正』とされた衝撃" Yahooニュース June 14, 2014 Retrieved June 14, 2014 
  13. ^ "科学界の「世界の三大不正」とは?小保方晴子氏問題、「シェーン事件以上」との指摘も" newclassic June 15, 2014 Archived from the original on June 15, 2014 Retrieved June 15, 2014 
  14. ^ "Profile of Riken scientist Obokata" NHK January 30, 2014 Archived from the original on February 3, 2014 
  15. ^ "Waseda graduate finds new method to create stem cells: Haruko Obokata leads research team" Waseda University January 30, 2014 
  16. ^ "STAP cell scientist seeks to withdraw PhD thesis" The Asahi Shimbun March 16, 2014
  17. ^ Momoko, Suda, "", "Mainichi Shimbun", 30 October 2015
  18. ^ Murai, Shusuke, "Waseda University strips Obokata of PhD", Japan Times, 3 November 2015, p 2
  19. ^ "'Rikejo' scientist triumphed over setbacks" The Japan News The Yomiuri Shimbun January 31, 2014 Archived from the original on February 3, 2014 
  20. ^ "RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology CDB: CDB welcomes two new laboratories" PDF RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology April 4, 2013 
  21. ^ Normile, Dennis; Vogel, Gretchen March 10, 2014 "Retraction Request Made as More Questions Swirl Around Simple Stem Cell Method" newssciencemagorg 
  22. ^ Schlanger, Zoe April 1, 2014 "Haruko Obokata, Who Claimed Stem Cell Breakthrough, Found Guilty of Scientific Misconduct" Newsweek Retrieved April 1, 2014 
  23. ^ Ishii, Shunsuke et al March 31, 2014 Report on STAP Cell Research Paper Investigation rikenjp
  24. ^ Elaine Lies June 4, 2014 "Japan researcher agrees to withdraw disputed stem cell paper" Reuters Retrieved June 4, 2014 
  25. ^ Lawrence, Janet July 2, 2014 "Nature journal retracts stem cell paper citing "critical errors"" Reuters Retrieved July 2, 2014 
  26. ^ McNeil, David June 30, 2014 "In Japan, Research Scandal Prompts Questions" Chronicle of Higher Education
  27. ^ "Obokata fails to reproduce 'STAP cell' discovery" The Japan Times December 18, 2014
  28. ^ Cyranoski, David August 5, 2014 "Researcher’s death shocks Japan" Nature News Blog
  29. ^ "Japanese stem cell scientist Yoshiki Sasai found dead in apparent suicide", The Independent, 5 August 2014 Accessed 6 August 2014
  30. ^ Gallagher, James 19 December 2014 "Stem cell scandal scientist Haruko Obokata resigns" BBC News Retrieved 19 December 2014 
  31. ^ Rasko, John; Carl Power 18 February 2015 "What pushes scientists to lie The disturbing but familiar story of Haruko Obokata" The Guardian Retrieved 19 February 2015 

External links

  • STAP HOPE PAGE by Haruko Obokata, March 25, 2016
  • Harvard Catalyst profile Archived April 26, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  • Center for Developmental Biology at RIKEN
  • Laboratory for Cellular Reprogramming at RIKEN
  • About concerns on Haruko Obokata's papers
  • 小保方晴子が筆頭著者の論文の不適切さについて in Japanese

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