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Stem cell research scandal big jolt to Japan

Japanese researcher Haruko Obokata earned global fame for leading a research unit for cellular programming at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology.

In January, the 31-year-old Obokata left academic establishment in Japan stunned when two of her papers were published in reputed British journal Nature.

She was the lead author of both these papers, which suggested a way forward in regenerative medicine.

Obokata, a former researcher at Harvard Medical School, was hailed by Japanese researchers as an academic star, but her adulation was not going to last long.

Just after one month, Riken, a network of research institutions funded by Japaanese government, decided to launch a probe after being notified of problems in the Nature papers.

Three months later, Obokata was shamed publicly by Riken as she was accused of fabricating data, doctoring images, and plagiarism.

Ms. Obokata's actions "lead us to the conclusion that she sorely lacks, not only a sense of research ethics, but also integrity and humility as a scientific researcher," the panel concluded in a report.

Obokata admitted that she made mistakes but claimed that her intentions were not bad. The public humiliation left her in deep shock and she was admitted to hospital.

Meanwhile, Obokata's appeals have been dismissed by Riken and she is now set to face disciplinary action. For her part, Obokata has pledged to fight.

On June 4, she agreed to retract both Nature papers but according to her lawyer she took this decision under duress.

On July 2, a statement was released by Nature confirming that Obokata has officially retracted the papers.