Within a few weeks after Haruko Obokata published her paper in Nature in Jan 2014, there were speculations about the paper. A senior author of the Nature Articles Professor Teruhiko Wakayama proposed that the papers be retracted and must be re-submitted if they could reproduce the findings. Riken, the Japanese affiliated research institute also started an investigation on the issue.
Stem cell scientists and researchers were very keen in noticing that the images she used in her doctoral thesis were similar to the ones she used in a previous paper which she had published. On April 1 Riken had found Obokata guilty and announced it in a public forum. They stated that she was guilty of scientific misconduct on two charges of the six brought against her
They reached a conclusion that in manipulating the image data of two different gels and have used the data from two different experiments, her action cannot be permitted. They also stated that her lab notebooks were not properly maintained so it is difficult to accurately trace or understand her experiments and this is a serious obstacle.
On June 4,2014 Haruko Obokata agreed to retract both the papers she published in Nature in Jan 2014 and she agreed that her sloppy data management and actions and carelessness lead to the downfall. In July 2014, Riken gave Obokata a second chance which was an effort to verify her original results under the guidance of a third party and by their monitoring.
This brought out the fact that she tried to replicate her own study by the use of genetically manipulated mouse spleen cells that are fluorescent if a pluripotent gene indicative is activated. She failed to produce the Stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP cells) to back up her claimed discovery earlier that year in Jan 2014.
On August 5, 2014 Obokato’s mentor and co-author Yoshiki Sasai committed suicide, he has been cleared of misconduct but Obokato stated that it was his idea to name the cells STAP cells. She says Yoshiki Sasai ,the deputy director of Riken’s Center for Developmental Biology ,came up with the name and she wanted the cells to be named “animal callus” using a word that can mean ” a disorganized mass of cells that develops cuts or wounds in plants”
Ms.Obokata also stated that amid a last minute rush to assemble her thesis and send it to the bookbinder, she mistakenly submitted a document that wasn’t the final version and she had no idea that this would lead to a irredeemable and a huge problem. After all this got settled. Obokata had offered to retract her doctoral dissertation from the Waseda University following her allegations that she may have copied her dissertation work from U.S national Institute of Health website. In October 2014 , an investigative panel gave a one year grace period to revise her Ph.D dissertation or lose her degree. One year later , Waseda University announced that it was revoking Obokata’s Ph.D. Obokata resigned from Riken in December 2014.
She has even published a book in which she chronicles the unfolding of the scandal and alleges that one of her mentors was partially responsible for the controversy.
The 253 page Japanese book titled “Ano Hi(That Day)” hit the shelves in 2016