Researcher admits mistakes in stem cell study

May 23, 2013

A blockbuster study in which US researchers reported that they had turned human skin cells into embryonic stem cells contained errors, its lead author has acknowledged.

Shoukhrat Mitalipov nevertheless adamantly stood by the conclusions of the study published last week in journal Cell, which reported that human stem cell lines for the first time had been created via cloning.

The journal Nature contacted Mitalipov after an anonymous online critic on PubPeer spotted four separate problems in the paper.

In an interview with Nature, Mitalipov confirmed that three errors were made in the rush to publish—but denied the fourth issue raised was an error and said the overall conclusions were unaffected.

"The results are real, the cell lines are real, everything is real," said Mitalipov, a specialist at the Oregon Health and Science University in Beaverton.

"I personally made the cells," he said. "I saw them grow into ."

He blamed the errors on his rush to publish the research, which he hoped to present next month at the International Society for meeting. "Maybe it was rushed," he said. "It was my ."

Mitalipov said his research team will be issuing an erratum correcting the flaws, and hopes that other scientists will try to duplicate his findings, which will lend it even more .

"The first thing we want to do is have people confirm our results," Mitalipov said. "We are not hiding these cell lines."

The scientific community was divided as to how seriously to view the errors.

Robin Lovell Badge, who heads the Division of and at the MRC National Institute for in London, warned against a rush to condemn.

"I expect the errors above were also due to the rush to publish. The authors should be given a chance to answer and correct mistakes," he told Nature.

Others said they were surprised that Cell accepted the paper in just days—a time they deemed insufficient for proper peer review.

"The four-day review process was obviously inadequate," said Arnold Kriegstein, director of the stem cell program at the University of California, San Francisco.

"It's a degree of sloppiness that you wouldn't expect in a paper that was going to have this high profile," Kriegstein told the British journal.

"One worries if there is more than meets the eye and whether there are other issues with the work that are not as apparent," he said.

The cloning method written about in the article was described as an important breakthrough because it does not destroy embryos in creating the type of stem cell that can morph into any other type of cell in the body.

The technique involves transplanting an individual's DNA into an egg cell that has been stripped of genetic material, a variation of a method called somatic cell nuclear transfer.

Scientists said the research could one day offer new pathways in the fight against Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and blindness.

Since the reprogrammed cells use genetic material from the patient, there is no concern about transplant rejection.

Another advantage of the technique is that it circumvents some of the ethical challenges inherent when using fertilized embryos to obtain stem cells.

Explore further: Researchers successfully convert human skin cells into embryonic stem cells

Related Stories

World's first chimeric monkeys are born

January 5, 2012

Researchers have produced the world's first chimeric monkeys. The bodies of these monkeys, which are normal and healthy, are composed of a mixture of cells representing as many as six distinct genomes. The advance holds great ...

Researchers test new gene therapy method in human cells

October 24, 2012

Oregon Health & Science University's development of a new gene therapy method to prevent certain inherited diseases has reached a significant milestone. Researchers at the university's Oregon National Primate Research Center ...

Recommended for you

Duplicate genes help animals resolve sexual conflict

February 19, 2018

Duplicate copies of a gene shared by male and female fruit flies have evolved to resolve competing demands between the sexes. New genetic analysis by researchers at the University of Chicago describes how these copies have ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (3) May 23, 2013
The question, "Are They Sacred or Not?" still remains for laymen. You just cannot wade through the issue like that.....Calling it an Embryonic Stem Cell and Meanwhile saying ....You cannot make a baby out of it.

Any how, it is a GREAT Finding. It is very heartening to note that the Researchers & Knowledgeable Critics are at it so soon again. I am sure this will lead to extremely fruitful results....IF OTHER LABS CAN DUPLICATE THE MATTER...Unlike that $ickPigIdiot SouthKorean Researcher who went by the bybull to fool others!
1 / 5 (3) May 23, 2013
He should have rather becum a priest and gone to the Vaticon
5 / 5 (3) May 24, 2013
The question, "Are They Sacred or Not?" still remains for laymen. You just cannot wade through the issue like that.....Calling it an Embryonic Stem Cell and Meanwhile saying ....You cannot make a baby out of it.
Labeling it an embryonic stem cell is not meant to be misleading; it's just a more convenient term than "pluripotent stem cell that's just like one taken from an embryo, but was not actually so taken; and, by the way, being pluripotent instead of totipotent, cannot become an embryo".
Maybe call it a "quasi-embryonic stem cell"?
1 / 5 (3) May 24, 2013
The term embryo needs to be taken out. I personally think a baby will come out of it....particularly with minor tinkering. Religions are OR are not losing their weight....because Spirit/Life is there.....but we see ALL Animals tending to their babies....We call them Instinct.
1 / 5 (3) May 24, 2013
Recently there was a report of Frog Species tending to its babies in its MOUTH......It could have easily swallowed them......Particularly when it eats insects...what not.
4.5 / 5 (2) May 24, 2013
The term embryo needs to be taken out.

It's a scientific article. Written by scientists for scientists. They know full well what they are talking about.

If you, as a layman, don't know (and get confused by) the terminology then that's your problem. Don't lay your shortcomings on the scientists.

Religions are OR are not losing their weight....because Spirit/Life is there.....

For people like you, maybe. This is a science site. For use by those educated in science. For those kinds of people religion means nothing (and a good thing, too - because religion doesn't get anything done in science).

but we see ALL Animals tending to their babies....We call them Instinct.

No we do not see that. Plenty of animals abandon their progeny at - or even before - birth. (e.g. most fish, many reptiles, ...)
1 / 5 (3) May 24, 2013
When it is not derived by the fusion of Sperm & Egg is NOT an Embryo for me. The suffix -ic indicates origin from Embryo. May be RIGHT TERM is Embryonated by Experimental means. I certainly do NOT accept that it is ESC unless they go ahead & say that a baby comes out of it....BUT THEY GO TO JAIL.......So, DILEMMA will CONTINUE until SOMEONE DARES to go to JAIL ! Who knows in future decades he may be a Trillionaire Praised by all those that are Helped by his Daring DEED.
5 / 5 (2) May 24, 2013
Whut? Could you lay off the meds for a second and start to write proper sentences? It's hard to understand your ramblings.
it is NOT an Embryo for me

Who cares about your (personal) redefinitions of words? That means nothing to the rest of us (and less than nothing to the scientific community).

You are not the center of the world - and certainly not the arbiter as to what words should and shouldn't mean.

So again: If YOU are unhappy about how YOU (mis-)understand what others write then the problem is with YOU - not others.

Instead of ranting you should be glad of the opportunity to educate yourself.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.