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stem cells

A decade ago, researcher Haruko Obokata caused a sensation when she published two papers in the journal Nature, in which she claimed that she had discovered a way to create stem cells easily using the so-called STAP method.

With STAP, short for stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, Obokata and her team claimed to have found a way to reprogram adult mice cells into all-purpose cells by simply soaking them in a mildly acidic liquid. The research was hailed as revolutionary and hoped to open new possibilities in medicine.

But less than three months after the publication of her research and the PR blitz that followed, her then-employer Riken recommended that the papers be withdrawn, saying she had fabricated data.

On April 9, 2014, Obokata emphatically defended her research in front of hundreds of reporters and TV crew at an Osaka hotel, claiming that STAP cells did exist. In the months that followed, however, nobody could reproduce the cells according to her protocol. She was booted from her job in December of that year, and has since disappeared from the spotlight and...