Japan’s top research institute has hammered the final nail in the coffin of what was once billed as a ground-breaking stem cell study, dismissing it as flawed and saying the work could have been fabricated.
The revelations come a week after a young researcher at the centre of the scandal, which has rocked the country’s scientific establishment, said she would resign after failing to reproduce the successful conversion of an adult cell into a stem cell-like state, known as “STAP” cells.
The failure marked a stunning fall from grace for 31-year-old Haruko Obokata, whose co-researcher committed suicide amid the embarrassing scandal that prompted respected science journal Nature to retract an article detailing the research.
On Friday, the government-backed Riken institute, which sponsored the study, said embryonic stem cells had been added in the process of the research, hammering Obokata’s contention that she had found an easier way to generate new stem cells in the lab.
“But we can’t conclude whether the mixing was done on purpose or by mistake nor can we conclude who did it,” investigation team chief Isao Katsura, head of the National Institute of Genetics, told a news briefing in Tokyo.
In January, Riken trumpeted Obokata’s simple method to re-program adult cells to work like stem cells.
The study was top news in Japan, where the photogenic Obokata, a Harvard-trained scientist, became a phenomenon.
But media attention soon grew into scepticism as doubts emerged about Obokata’s papers on Stimulus-Triggered Acquisition of Pluripotency (STAP).
Mistakes were discovered in some data published in two papers, photograph captions were found to be misleading, and the work itself could not be repeated by other scientists.
On Friday, the head of the investigation team, which was made up of scientists outside the institute and lawyers, said the committee interviewed Obokata three times.
“During the last of our interviews, we told her that we had enough evidence to show the mixing-in (of embryonic stem cells),” Katsura said.
“Then, before us asking anything, Ms Obokata said: ‘I’ve never mixed them’.”
Embryonic stem cells are prototype “mother” cells found in early-stage embryos, with the potential to become any kind of tissue in the body. But critics argue that an embryo is a human life, pointing to ethical problems.
Another way of generating stem cells from adult skin cells, called induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS), are cumbersome compared with the method which Obokata claimed to have discovered, scientists have said.
Obokata, who earlier said she created STAP cells some 200 times, since July has been trying in tandem with independent teams to reproduce her own results.
She claimed there was a secret knack for creating STAP cells, but has refused to publicise it, asserting it is a subject of her future papers.
As the scandal deepened, Obokata’s mentor and co-author, stem cell scientist Yoshiki Sasai, hanged himself, further shaking Japan’s scientific establishment.
Riken has pledged to restructure its Centre for Developmental Biology where the scandal took place.
Smith won the toss and put his team in to bat but the hosts were on the back foot for much of a mild, sunny day in front of a festive Boxing Day crowd of 70,000.
Continuing a stellar run of form, Smith was unbeaten on 72 at stumps, with wicketkeeper Brad Haddin surviving a couple of body blows from India’s pacemen and clutching to a scratchy 23.
Though not helped by some appalling fielding, particularly in the morning session, India’s bowlers stuck to their task on a benign drop-in wicket to pin Australia down in the final two sessions.
“I think it’s pretty even to be honest,” Australia opening batsman Chris Rogers told reporters after scoring 57, his third successive half-century in the series.
“I think there’s enough in the wicket if you get it in the right area. There was the odd ball that seemed to kiss and go a bit quicker off the wicket.”
Smith and middle order batsman Shaun Marsh resumed after tea with Australia on 174-3, but Marsh was out quickly for 32 with a rash front-foot swipe at paceman Mohammed Shami that gave an edge to India wicketkeeper and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Test debutant Joe Burns, replacing injured all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, managed 13 runs before bottom-edging an Umesh Yadav delivery to Dhoni.
Where Smith never really appeared under great threat, out-of-form wicketkeeper Haddin was under the gun constantly from India’s quicks but scrapped through the final overs to ensure the hosts lost no further ground.
Australia’s batsmen are likely to be disappointed with their return, with several making starts but only Smith cashing in.
Rogers and Shane Watson raised half-centuries after lunch but were both out within minutes of each other.
One ball after a mix-up over a single, Rogers nicked an edge to Dhoni behind the stumps off Shami, while Watson was trapped lbw by spinner Ravi Ashwin for 52 with an ill-timed sweep.
Under pressure after a string of low scores, the all-rounder failed to make India pay after being dropped in the slips by Shikhar Dhawan on 37.
Yadav dismissed opening batsman David Warner for a duck in the second over but India squandered the start with poor fielding as the hosts pushed to 92-1 at lunch.
Dhawan caught Warner well in the slips but made a hash of Watson’s chance before lunch, diving across from second slip and juggling the ball twice before it grounded, much to the delight of most of the MCG crowd.
Australia are bidding to seal the four-match series 3-0 after winning the opening tests in Adelaide and Brisbane.
India made two changes, with the out-of-form Rohit Sharma dropped in favour of debutant batsman Lokesh Rahul and Shami coming in for paceman Varun Aaron.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford/John O’Brien)
What could have been the turning point of Shane Watson’s summer became another lost opportunity for the Australian allrounder.
Watson posted his highest Test cricket score in nearly a year on day one of the Boxing Day match against India.
While batting partner Chris Rogers praised Watson’s 52, it was also a case of another tease from the talented No.3.
Watson failed to capitalise after he was dropped a few minutes before lunch on 37.
When it was put to Watson that could have been a decisive moment for him in this series, Watson told Channel Nine: “I thought it was as well.
“It was nice to feel good out there.
“Unfortunately I just got out at the wrong time again.
“It’s a beautiful batting wicket and unfortunately I wasn’t able to go on with it again.”
In 54 Tests, Watson has scored 22 half-centuries and only four tons.
This was his first 50 since scoring 83no in the second innings of last year’s Boxing Day Test win over England.
Once again, he was dismissed when he had laid the foundations for a big innings – and done plenty of brickwork, too.
“I feel like I’ve still got a lot of improvement to go,” he said.
“I’m not really someone who talks about a lot of things, I work through it in my own mind.
“Today I felt like I was free in my mind with the way I batted, until I got out.”
He joined opener Chris Rogers at the crease on Friday with Australia in early trouble at 1-0.
They put on 115 for the second wicket and had steered Australia out of trouble.
But Rogers was dismissed for 57 and Watson went in the next over, judged lbw trying to sweep spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
While Watson’s wicket was frustrating, Rogers was impressed.
“I thought he played very well today – particularly soft hands on the off side,” Rogers said.
“That gave us a bit of momentum as well, so all credit to him.
“We enjoy being out there together (and) we have a bit of a laugh.
“Maybe the different styles as well – he goes at them pretty hard and I let them come at me a little bit.”
Three days ago, Watson sent a scare through the Australian team when he was hit on the helmet in a nets session.
He later felt off colour back in his hotel room, but Watson said he was never in doubt for the Test.
“A couple of hours after I was a little bit dizzy, but after that I had a decent sleep and I was fine,” he said.
The existing record was set in the same city when New Zealand’s Nathan Astle took 153 balls to reach his double century against England at Lancaster Park in 2002.
The 33-year-old McCullum belted 18 fours and 11 sixes in his innings as he became the first New Zealand batsman to surpass 1,000 test runs in a calendar year and broke his own national record for the fastest century, which came off 74 balls.
Mark Craig was on five after wicketkeeper BJ Watling was trapped lbw for 26 in the final over but the hosts were in a dominant position after they had been asked to bat by Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews on a green pitch.
“Once I got under way and managed to create a partnership with Kane (Williamson), the runs began to flow quite nicely,” McCullum told RadioSport.
“It was nice to have a good solid day and put ourselves in front of the game and put some pressure back on Sri Lanka.”
Despite the bowler-friendly conditions, Sri Lanka’s attack did not look penetrating, despite New Zealand slumping to 88-3 shortly after lunch and the match seemingly swinging back towards the visitors.
Suranga Lakmal, however, dropped a simple caught and bowled opportunity off Williamson with the score on 103 and the floodgates opened.
McCullum punished anything short by slashing it to the cover-point boundary and when the Sri Lankan bowlers pitched up, he simply belted the ball back over their head.
He shared in a 126-run partnership with Williamson (54) and then a 153-run stand in 19.3 overs with all-rounder Jimmy Neesham (85) as the hosts took the visitors out of the contest by scoring at more than 5.3 runs an over.
“I was trying to be a little aggressive when the ball was up to get them to back their length off and that would create a scoring opportunity,” McCullum added.
“I think there is still something in the wicket for the bowlers if you bowl the fuller length, so hopefully when we do get the ball in hand we can create some opportunities.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O’Brien)
Having walked the walk throughout Australia’s four-Test series, rookie skipper Steve Smith talked the talk on Boxing Day.
Smith personified leadership as Australia reached 5-259 at stumps on day one of the third Test against India.
Continuing his career-best form to finish 72 not out, he reined in his natural aggression with the bat to steady the hosts as wickets tumbled around him at the MCG.
Chris Rogers was in awe, noting how Smith’s confidence had grown.
“Someone (Indian paceman Mohammed Shami) threw a ball back at him today and he had the confidence to say a few words back at him,” Rogers said.
“It’s scary to think how good he can be.
“He’s phenomenal to watch.
“He knows he belongs and he knows he’s among the best players in the world at the moment.”
Smith is on the cusp of a third century in the series and passed 1000 Test runs for the calender year during his knock.
The 25-year-old displayed true grit, refusing to give India the upper hand at any point in a topsy-turvy day.
The rise and rise of Smith over the past year has been underlined by fluent strokeplay, fancy footwork, fidgeting at the crease and a lot of runs.
But when half-centurions Rogers and Shane Watson fell in consecutive overs during the second session as Australia slipped from 1-115 to 3-115, Smith reined himself in.
Smith started the 50th over on two from 31 deliveries.
The right-hander, fresh from man-of-the-match honours in his first Test as captain, waited 12 overs before taking his first risk.
It paid off, Smith dancing down the wicket to offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin and lashing a boundary over the head of mid-off.
Shaun Marsh and debutant Joe Burns were dismissed in the final session after making starts, but Smith remained resolute alongside Brad Haddin.
The pair negotiated eight overs of the second new ball in an unbeaten partnership worth 43 runs.
Smith had remarked that India were “whingeing and complaining among themselves” in his pre-match press conference, and that may have been the catalyst for his run-in with Shami after tea.
“Our focus is to get all batsmen out. Doesn’t matter if it was Steve Smith or anyone else,” Shami said of the confrontation.
David Warner’s hopes of niggling the tourists ended in just the second over when he was dismissed for a duck.
But India’s sloppy fielding meant they failed to take control of the contest.
Australia’s first run came in the fourth over, courtesy of a bye when wicketkeeper MS Dhoni fumbled a bouncer.
Debutant KL Rahul and Shami, both recalled as India seek the victory they need to keep the four-Test series alive, also misfielded in the fourth over.
The errors cost so much more than the four runs added to the scoreboard, relieving the pressure on Rogers and Watson.
“It definitely helps … hopefully we won’t make those mistakes,” Rogers said.
Second slip Shikhar Dhawan fumbled a catch when Watson was on 37, with Rogers calling it “pretty crucial”.