Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Maybe? Then Again, Maybe Not

Kenneth Lee from the Chinese University of Hong Kong says at ResearchGate that his team was able to follow the controversial stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) protocol to develop what look like pluripotent cells, the Nature News Blog reports.

The approach was published in Nature in January, and excitement over the method soon gave way to skepticism, and, earlier this week, Riken found the lead researcher, Haruko Obokata from the Riken Center for Developmental Biology, guilty of misconduct. Obokata is appealing that finding.

According to the Nature News Blog, Lee had been, like many others, trying to replicate the STAP approach with little success, even after Obokata and some of her co-authors released a modified protocol.

Another co-author on the STAP papers, Harvard Medical School's Charles Vacanti, released his own protocol that was based more on physically stressing cell membranes than using an acid bath, and that is the one Lee says he may have gotten to work.

After following that protocol, Lee tells Nature that the cells looked "yucky" and likely dead, but genetic analysis — which Lee said he repeated multiple times — indicated that they expressed elevated levels of three genes usually expressed in pluripotent cells.

Still, Lee and others note that this does not necessarily mean the protocol works, and that more work remains to be done.

"Potentially, expression of these pluripotent markers could be the [by]-product of un-regulated gene expression by the dying or stressed cells," Lee writes at ResearchGate, adding, "I am not claiming that 'STAP' cells [exist] — only presenting the results of our research as it is — which is open to interpretation."