was the head of her research lab at the RICKEN Centre for Developmental Biology
(CDB) in Kobe, Japan. When the paper was published, “Bidirectional
developmental potential in reprogrammed cells with acquired pluripotency” on January
29th 2014, it was supposedly ground breaking. People in the science
community originally thought Obokata would be in line for the next Nobel Prize
for her work in producing pluripotent stem cells. As this was such a
groundbreaking paper, within two days of it being published, it was being
scrutinized. Twitter and Science blogs were discussing the “science” of the
paper and the authenticity of the results. These people claimed that the images
appeared doctored and that sections of text had been plagiarised. The scrutiny
caused the RICKEN centre and Nature, who had published the paper, to
investigate the results and the paper. From this investigation, by April 1st,
Haruko Obokata had been found guilty of scientific misconduct.
laboratory she worked for allowed her to stay to try and produce her results
again as Obokata defended her paper. In June, she agreed that her article be
withdrawn and by July her paper had been retracted. This triggered an
overhaul within the CDB as the blame was
placed on Obokata when her seniors should have picked up on the remarkable
results and plagiarised work within her paper. As a result of the overhaul,
around 250 staff lost their jobs and a new management team was brought in.
supervisor, Yoshiki Sasai, was diagnosed with depression and sadly committed
suicide on August 5th. He left three suicide notes, and one had
blamed the media for “unjust bashing” and the responsibility he felt towards
Haruko Obokata left university, she went to work with Charles Vacanti. He had
done work with stem cells previously, and brought up the idea of STAP. He
thought Obokata could bring some credibility to his work. She joined his team
as a graduate, and they kept in touch with each other when she travelled back
to Japan. Although his name appeared on both retracted papers, his work has not
been brought into question.
the scandal had been revealed, Obokata has had her doctorate revoked from
Waseda University as it was discovered she had plagiarised text in her thesis.
In 2016, Haruko published a memoir where she discussed what lead to the papers
being published and how it has affected her life since. In the book, she claims
that she was set up as a scapegoat by the CDB and defends herself. She also
says she has been stalked by the media.