New Riken research questions utility of STAP cells at heart of faked results scandal

The Japan research scandal about STAP cells, which led to several heads rolling at the Riken Institute, now possibly including its president, might not have happened if new research had been available. It turns out that Riken has discovered induced pluripotent cells are not functional substitutes for embryonic stem cells.

A published study by Riken scientists led by Piero Carninci into the beginning of the RNA process of transporting DNA code found there were "significant differences between the two" types of cells. The iPS cells are not "functionally identical to natural embryonic stem cells, and this means that we have to be cautious when using such cells. Researchers need new tools to understand "what we bring into therapy," he said.

That knowledge might have obviated the research that led to false claims by other Riken researchers in related work that they found that stimulating a cell to get pluripotency and become a stem cell. They wrote about it in two peer-reviewed journals that later retracted them.

Ryoji Noyori

The lead researcher was ousted and faces a possible suit by Riken, one researcher committed suicide and now the organization's Nobel Prize-winning president, Ryoji Noyori, has decided to resign three years ahead of his scheduled departure at age 80. The overseeing government ministry approved the move, according to Asahi Shimbun.

The newspaper said Nyori cited his age and his having already served 12 years longer than his original term as his reason to resign now. Officials at the Education Ministry denied that his resignation by the end of the month was related to the scandal.

Nyori already took a pay cut in response to the scandal and Riken was scheduled to release this month a report by a group of outside experts on the institute's subsequent organizational reform effort. The institute also faces changes in its setup proposed by pending legislation in the parliament.

- here's the Riken research release
- and the story from Asahi Shimbun