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Time to Retract?

The recent breakthrough in stem cell technology that sounded so remarkable, so easy, and so 'right under our noses' — that pluripotent stem cells could be manufactured in a lab simply by dipping mammalian cells in an acid bath and stressing them for a bit — may actually have been too good to be true. Or at least the paper detailing the innovation is such a train wreck that it is hard to know if this method would work.

A little over a month after the team from Japan's Riken Center for Developmental Biology published its research, which was hailed as a potentially game-changing technology that would make stem cell-based research, cloning, and treatments much faster and simpler, it has run into trouble, the Nature News Blog reports.

First off, other investigators found the experiment, led by Riken researchers Haruko Obokata, hard to reproduce — though three of the researchers published a tipsheet at the Nature Protocol exchange last week. Next, just weeks after it was published, experts scouring the data found irregularities and duplicated images in the research. Even one of the paper's co-authors has joined a chorus of those asking that the Nature paper be retracted.

Over the weekend, it was found that two images from the Nature paper were duplicated from Obokata's dissertation, and that there were inconsistencies with the types of cells her methods produced.

"I have lost faith in the paper. Overall there are now just too many uncertainties about it. I think we have to wait for some confirmation," Teruhiko Wakayama, a cloning expert at Yamanashi University and a co-author on the paper, tells the Nature News Blog.

Wakayama is pushing for the paper to be retracted and for new data and images to be put together to show that the methods they detail actually worked.