Stem Cells photo
Haruko Obokata

One of the scientists involved in two milestone stem cell papers now wants to withdraw the papers.

Late in January, a team of American and Japanese scientists announced they’d discovered a new, easy way to transform adult skin cells into pluripotent stem cells. It was one of the biggest steps in stem cell research in the last decade. A few weeks later, however, troubles arose when independent scientists inspected the papers more closely and tried to duplicate the transformation with no success.

“When conducting the experiment, I believed it was absolutely right,” Japanese geneticist Teruhiko Wakayama told Reuters. “But now that many mistakes have emerged, I think it is best to withdraw the research paper once and, using correct data and correct pictures, to prove once again the paper is right. If it turns out to be wrong, we would need to make it clear why a thing like this happened.”

The papers are now under investigation by both RIKEN, the Japanese research institute that employs many of the scientists involved in the papers, and Nature Publishing Group, which published the papers. It is still unclear if the papers’ conclusions are incorrect, or if the papers’ authors made mistakes in putting together the paper, but do have the correct data somewhere.