Japanese scientist in research scandal found dead (Update)

Aug 05, 2014 by Mari Yamaguchi
In this April 16, 2014 photo, Yoshiki Sasai, deputy chief of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo. Police said Sasai, 52, was found Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, at a government science institute RIKEN in Kobe, western Japan. Sasai had supervised and co-authored stem-cell research papers that had to be retracted due to falsified contents. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

A senior Japanese scientist embroiled in a stem-cell research scandal has apparently committed suicide, police said Tuesday.

Yoshiki Sasai, who supervised and co-authored stem-cell research papers that had to be retracted due to falsified contents, was found dead Tuesday at the government-affiliated science institute RIKEN in Kobe, in western Japan, according to Hyogo prefectural police. Sasai, 52, was deputy chief of RIKEN's Center for Developmental Biology.

A security guard found him suffering from cardiac arrest, with a rope around his neck, according to RIKEN. Sasai was rushed to a hospital, but was pronounced dead two hours later.

Police and RIKEN said Sasai left what appeared to be suicide notes, but refused to disclose their contents.

RIKEN spokesman Satoru Kagaya told a news conference that Sasai had three letters with him, each addressed to Haruko Obokata, a co-author of the research papers, as well as senior members of RIKEN and fellow researchers. Two other notes addressed to RIKEN officials were on Sasai's secretary's desk.

Sasai's health had deteriorated over the past few months, and he had been receiving medical treatment. Kagaya said that Sasai started looking depressed in May, and that the two had hardly seen each other recently.

"He seemed exhausted. I could tell he was tired even on the phone," Kagaya said, referring to one of his last conversations with Sasai.

In this January 28, 2014 photo, Yoshiki Sasai, right, deputy chief of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology and biologist Haruko Obokata, a unit team leader of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB), left, pose for photos after they talked about STAP, known as stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, in Kobe, western Japan. Police said Sasai, 52, was found Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, at a government science institute RIKEN in Kobe. Sasai had supervised and co-authored stem-cell research papers that had to be retracted due to falsified contents. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Sasai's team retracted the research papers from the British science journal Nature over Obokata's alleged malpractice, which she has contested. Retractions of papers in major scientific journals are extremely rare, and the scandal was a major embarrassment to Japanese scientific research.

Obokata was in shock when she heard the news of Sasai's death, Kagaya said. Obokata has been in and out of the hospital since the scandal due to her mental condition, and RIKEN has arranged a team of medical staff and colleagues to give her support, while monitoring her around the clock, he said.

In two papers published in Nature earlier this year, the researchers reported that they successfully transformed ordinary mouse cells into versatile stem cells by exposing them to a mildly acidic environment. Scientists hope to harness stem cells to grow replacement tissue for treating a variety of diseases.

RIKEN later held Obokata, a main author of the research, responsible for falsifying data. The investigation also focused on Sasai and two other employees, though the three were not accused of research misconduct.

Sasai had said he was "deeply ashamed" over the problems with the papers.

Explore further: Japanese scientist to retract stem cell papers

Journal reference: Nature search and more info website

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User comments : 11

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betterexists
1 / 5 (1) Aug 05, 2014
I would rather see thatbccchhh commit suicide!
Not him.
betterexists
1 / 5 (1) Aug 05, 2014
Why those disinterested in Research?
To start gender warfare??
Pexeso
not rated yet Aug 05, 2014
Whole the Obokato story is deeply disappointing for me. I'm not convinced, that the acidic preparation of pluripotent cells - as published with Obokato - is a nonsense. We know, that the cancer gets often initiated with acidity of organism due to protection of DNA inside of basic histons. When the acidic environment removes this protection, the DNA is prone to free replication and modification. Sasai's acting during this scandal was shameful too. He first promoted Obokata within the Riken organization, but later disavowed any knowledge of her research as the scandal broke. Maybe he realized he was doubly wrong in this case.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (4) Aug 05, 2014
Might I suggest that researchers who are involved in similar fields with potential life-saving applications, and have also lost the will to live, at least experiment on themselves in some meaningful way rather than throwing away a perfectly good test subject.

It might not be scientifically useful but then neither is hari kari.
antialias_physorg
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 05, 2014
Might I suggest that researchers who are involved in similar fields with potential life-saving applications, and have also lost the will to live, at least experiment on themselves in some meaningful way rather than throwing away a perfectly good test subject.

..and automobile drivers who have lost the will to live should volunteer as crash test dummies.

Your comment doesn't even merit a downrating. There's no negative numbers. Even a 1 would be too much of an accolade.

Any other ideas of that 'brilliant' caliber?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Aug 05, 2014
I see you still haven't developed a Sinn fur Humor. And you don't read comic books or classic lit. Ever hear of Dr Jekyll? Leider.

You really should try to spend more time elsewhere on the internet. Might I suggest
http://m.etonline.com
..and automobile drivers who have lost the will to live should volunteer as crash test dummies.
Actually this relates to my comment about the AI thought experiment 'kill the kid or kill the driver'. Obviously only killing the driver would provide useful data.

I always try to look for the utility in every situation.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Aug 05, 2014
Ever hear of Dr Jekyll? Leider.

And I told you before: Learn german before using it. You already sound stupid enough as is - no need to expand that to other languages.
The correct phrase is "Leider nicht". "Leider" alone is a makes no sense, here.

You really should try to spend more time elsewhere on the internet

And might I suggest for you: Anywhere but here?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Aug 05, 2014
And I told you before: Learn german... The correct phrase is "Leider nicht"
Echt? I thought it was 'leider so'.
Anywhere but here?
But then how would you learn just how many things you think you know but dont? Like zB how scientists routinely use the convention 'weighing' to mean something other than what you assume?

"Weighing the Universe
with
Weak Gravitational Lensing
Richard James Massey
Clare College
Institute of Astronomy"

-etc. Ill continue to correct you as needed and when necessary. Im sure youll thank me one day.

BTW per my orig comment, many scientists have made important contributions by experimenting on themselves. Marie curie and Albert Hofmann are 2 who come to mind. In fact scientists routinely used to taste, feel, and smell their work. Heres a list of nobel laureates who did just that.
http://www.telegr...ves.html
tekram
not rated yet Aug 06, 2014
Talking about doubly wrong, you are not going to see Charles and Martin Vacanti follow in the footstep of Sasai. The Vacanti brothers are the Harvard American coauthors of the the retracted Nature paper on STAP. Nature publication had repeated asked if they had independently confirmed the STAP stem cell procedure of their Japanese colleagues and the Vacanti brothers had assured Nature that they had - until they had to finally admitted their retraction on July 3rd 2014. All they could say at the retraction was "there are inexplicable discrepancies in genetic background ... donor mice" and that "These multiple errors impair the credibility of the study as a whole and we are unable to say without doubt whether the STAP-SC phenomenon is real. "
http://www.nature...598.html
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2014
Echt? I thought it was 'leider so'.

No. You are referring to a sentence that insinuates me NOT having read Jekyll and Hyde. If you are referring to such a negated sentence it's "Leider nicht" or "Leider nein".

Google translate just doesn't cut it if you think it'll make you sound smart.

Like zB how scientists routinely use the convention 'weighing' to mean something other than what you assume?

Weighing is correct (it is the measuring of a force by which one determines mass). Referring to the weight of a galaxy instead of a mass is not correct.

I know full well what I'm talking about. You should learn some physics (and german...and it seem: english...and extrapolating from that: probably anything at all)

Ill continue to correct you as needed

Sure. You seem to flourish on demonstrating your stupidity. Go ahead. You've come to the right place.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2014
Weighing is correct (it is the measuring of a force by which one determines mass). Referring to the weight of a galaxy instead of a mass is not correct.
Ahhgahhhhh. Cough.

"This activity measures the mass of a spiral galaxy, viewed edge-on, using the same procedure employed by astronomers. It is surprising how just a few measurements and the knowledge of a few fundamental laws of physics make it possible to weigh the largest and most distant objects in the Universe"
http://www.euhou....a-galaxy

'A few fundamental laws of physics'. Ahaaajaaaah.
Sure. You seem to flourish on demonstrating your stupidity. Go ahead. You've come to the right place
Science makes progress with scientists sharing what they know. Lots of them use the internet. If you want to pretend to be one then you REALLY ought to try it.