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April 28, 2017

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Japan institute may retract 'game-changing' cell study

TOKYO -- A Japanese research institute said Friday it may retract a study that promised a revolutionary way to create stem cells after claims its data was faulty, dealing a huge blow to what was touted as a game-changing discovery.

The findings, published by Haruko Obokata along with other Japanese researchers and a U.S.-based scientist in the January edition of British journal Nature, outlined a relatively simple approach in the quest to grow transplant tissue in the lab.

But it faced hard questions as the respected Riken institute, which sponsored the study, launched an inquiry last month over the credibility of data used in the explosive findings.

Institute head, Ryoji Noyori, who jointly won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2001, on Friday said the institute may quash the study, but added that its investigation was continuing.

"We are making considerations including the option of recommending that the paper be retracted," Noyori told a press briefing in Tokyo.

Minoru Yonekura, Riken's executive compliance director, added that any corrections to the study, or a full retraction, should follow an agreement between its authors and Nature.

"The publisher and the authors should work out a final solution," he told reporters.

Japanese media reports Friday had said the 30-year-old Obokata had agreed that the research should be pulled back, in what would amount to a serious professional embarrassment, and deflate hopes of a major advance in the field.

But a joint statement signed by Obokata and two other researchers, released by Riken on Friday, said the trio was "considering a possible retraction."

The study had been billed as the third great advance in stem cells — a field that aims to reverse Alzheimer's, cancer and other crippling or lethal diseases.

"Research that surprised the world by defying the common wisdom in biological science will likely have to go back to the drawing board," the Asahi newspaper said.

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