Haruko Obokata (小保方 晴子) website posts dubious STAP cell validation data

Haruko Obokata is most well-known for her role as first author of the now retracted two STAP cell Nature papers. These manuscripts claimed to have made pluripotent and even totipotent stem cells simply by stressing cells out with acid treatment or in other ways. Nobody else could get this method to work to create the so-called STAP cells.

It was an all around scientific disaster and I don’t know anyone who believes that STAP cells are real, but Obokata and another one of her mentors, Dr. Charles Vacanti have still at times indicated their belief in STAP.

STAP cell Obokata 2016

Screenshot from STAP Hope website

Obokata appears to have launched a new website at the end of March of this year and there was a sense that this site along with her memoir-like book would together tell her side of the story plus might continue to push the notion that STAP is real. Update: it is formally possible that Obokata is not running this website so I have made a few change to this post.

There are now posted data on a page on the website called, “Results of the STAP verification experiment” claiming to support the idea that STAP is real.

The data are very unconvincing.

For instance the qPCR has no error bars and no negative control cell sample, and images of supposed STAP cell clusters (above) don’t really tell us much of anything.

I guess the stars at the top are supposed to indicate how strongly she feels that a particular sample was validated. Is that rigorous?

Another question is the source of this data.

I don’t think this will convince anyone of anything.

HT to reader Takeyoshi.

3 thoughts on “Haruko Obokata (小保方 晴子) website posts dubious STAP cell validation data


  1. Part of the media and public opinion are encouraging such behaviour. Unceretainty remains as to whether the site is actually run by Obokata herself. Photographs were shown as proof and to be part of “Results of the STAP verification experiment”, which was refuted by Riken.
    Besides, things have even evolved into a conspiracy theory where Obokata indeed created STAP but was denied the glory because of … (whatever).


  2. Paul, I’m glad that the thrust of your writing is on the STAP hypothesis, rather than the personalities.

    I take it that the idea that cells can change when stresses are imposed is not contentious? So, to my way of thinking, Vacanti and Obokata made the error of extrapolating too far. Nothing wrong with wild extrapolation for formulating a hypothesis. The error was for them to “believe” their hypothesis and for them to let that belief inform their actions.

    I agree with the summation of William Clifford in his classic essay, “The Ethics of Belief”:
    http://people.brandeis.edu/~teuber/Clifford_ethics.pdf
    “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”

    That’s a standard that few truly live up to. To the extent that they have been vilified, I feel a certain sympathy for both Vacanti and Obokata.


  3. “So, to my way of thinking, Vacanti and Obokata made the error of extrapolating too far. Nothing wrong with wild extrapolation for formulating a hypothesis. The error was for them to “believe” their hypothesis and for them to let that belief inform their actions.”

    Brian, I would suggest that the alleged falsification / alteration of data that went on with the gel images goes far beyond simply poor scientific practice.

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