STAP stem cell update: more prelim data, missing data, & 2011 paper problems

PH STAP testWhat’s the latest on the now two-week-old STAP stem cell saga?

  • More preliminary data from around the world.  People continue to deposit their data into our crowdsourcing page with 8 reports so far and I know some of them are from top-notch labs. Only one of them is even slightly encouraging with a report of faint activity from a Nanog-GFP reporter, while the rest are discouraging. It is still early days, but I think if nothing else so far these reports tell us that if STAP stem cells are real, they are probably not going to be as easy to make as some have suggested.
  • Data missing from Nature papers in databases? Some folks have raised concerns that, contrary to Nature publishing policy, the Nature STAP papers have apparently not deposited any publicly available data. Casey Bergman wrote a letter to Nature asking about it and put it in the comments on this blog. Let’s see what develops. I know people would like to independently analyze that data.
  • Concerns raised about 2011 Vacanti/Obokata paper. Post-publication review sleuths on PubPeer have raised issues of significant concern about a Tissue Engineering paper from 2011 with Obokata as first author and Charles Vacanti as senior author. There are potential examples of image duplication in that paper that are being discussed on PubPeer relating to Figures 2 and 3 especially, but also Figure 4.
  • STAP polling reflects uncertainty, but leans slightly positive. A second week of polling on STAP stem cells continues for a few more days here, but so far it’s a jumble of “on the fence” and other answers, but leans a bit towards people believing in them. Hope remains that STAP stem cells may be the real deal.

 

 

 

13 thoughts on “STAP stem cell update: more prelim data, missing data, & 2011 paper problems


  1. I am also wondering what do they try to show in figure 2g of the Letter? The label is “chimaeric fetus”, but then if the focus is on the embryonic contribution of FI-SCs, then should not we see the embryo in the bottom picture? Or at least the same image in both pictures?


  2. On the Japanese website, they also show potential image duplication in the very Nature Letter STAP paper!


  3. There are also problems with figure 1i in the STAP paper. The gel shows that STAP cells have both unrecombined and recombined copies of the TCRG, a gene that undergoes somatic VDJ recombination in lymphocytes, as evident in the third band. Given that as their input, how do the authors explain the uncombined band in the lymphocyte derived STAP cells? It’s very bright in lane 4, but we know that between the lymphocyte stage and the day 7 STAP stage the cells don’t proliferate very much, so it can’t be a very small population of cells with unrecombined TCRG (small enough not to be visible on lane 3) that drastically expands when cultured.

    If you zoom in on the figure an uncomfortable answer presents itself.


    • Lane 3 is just a positive control, so coming from a pure population. Their lymphocyte isolation method for STAP generation is just sorting hematopoietic cells of about the right size, so I guess some monocytic cells too.
      Having said that, there is no excuse for them not to load all 5 samples next to each other on a single gel while preparing a manuscript for Nature (or any other journal!). They could have also load their own cells from day 0.


      • The undeclared splice is unacceptable, frankly, and does the paper no favours, as it is extremely misleading. There’s a more representative figure in the extended data (2g) that shows the authors claim of starring from pure recombined lymphocyte populations, as clearly suggested by 1i, is incorrect.

        This does not mean the paper is wrong, but it is not reassuring in any way, especially as, if reported, the lymphocyte derivation was done at the request of reviewers.


  4. Bob,

    Could a more acceptable figure be requested from authors/publishers or in a critical comment of the paper the authors could defend? Are they not supposed to provide enough information etc so the work is replicable according to Nature editorial policy? If the can’t or will not would retraction be considered?


    • Amy,

      I find extended data figure 2g to be more “acceptable” as it is, insofar as it is at least biologically consistent and shows no trace of unacknowledged splicing. What the authors really need to do is explain why they published 1i as it currently stands, because it is misleading.

      It would also be nice to hear from Nature. I believe the issue has been brought to their attention, so for now we will wait.


  5. I predicted a big change right before the news reached out. Someone knew.
    I belive after 3-4 months you witness a lot of crazy stuff! 🙂

    But it is when everyone involved are agree of how to chare royalties, when patent is in box. And I belive this kind of patending is really hard.


  6. Is anyone ELSE thinking that it sounds like any STAP-based treatment would have the potential to cause very aggressive cancers? It just seems logical from all the information we have. I sincerely hope this never makes it to a trial on human subjects (if it even makes it remotely that far, which seems unlikely right now.)


    • Remember:

      1. The original STAP paper clearly shows that proliferation of STAP cells ONLY occurs when they are switched to ES stem cell media. This fact escapes most people attention.

      2. As far as STAP cells causing agressive tumors: the same is already known for iPS and ES cells so what´s the difference?


      • I have been through a weeklong odyssey to read the original study. No public library has it. I will have to physically go to the ohsu library because they are required to allow any library card holder to use a research database. But this is what laypeople have to go through. Is it any wonder that most people don’t know more about science? ? Anyway, the point is that I ‘ll know more then…but yes,the general problems with ipsc’s are disturbing.


  7. Japanese Institute Opens Investigation Into Its Stem-Cell Breakthrough
    Questions Have Been Raised About Images in Study

    By ALEXANDER MARTIN CONNECT
    Feb. 17, 2014 4:40 a.m. ET
    A Japanese government-funded science institute said it has opened an investigation in response to questions raised about images in a groundbreaking study on stem cells.

    The Riken research institute said Monday that it began the investigation Thursday, following allegations of irregularities in images used in two papers published last month in the British journal Nature.

    The research, carried out by an international team led…

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