Reproducing the STAP Stem Cell Method

March 13, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth in Reproducibility |

When the stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) stem cell papers were published there was tremendous excitement in the scientific community. The papers described a seemingly simple method to reprogram differentiated somatic cells into pluripotency  – a process that usually involves the addition of multiple transcription factors.

The controversy around the papers comes from two separate issues. The initial controversy concerns the images submitted by the authors. First, an image used in Dr. Obokata’s doctoral thesis may have also been used in the Nature papers. However, the image from her thesis was from different experiments and time periods than those reported in the Nature paper. Secondly, a lane in their genomic analysis gel seems to be spliced. Lastly, images from two different placentas look nearly identical. Questionable images are a red flag, and this may be what causes the papers to be retracted.

But the larger issue brought up by these papers is reproducibility, which is much more complex. While it is terrific to see the crowdsourced replication attempts reported on the Knoepfler blog, the attempts did not use the same cells as those reported in the original studies, thus limiting interpretation of the attempts as replications. Read the rest of this entry »

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