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Fraud Found In Study Claiming Fast, Easy Stem Cells

What is it with stem cell research? Despite solid science from many corners, the scandals never seem to stop. In this case, after a lofty international announcement in January, it only took about two months for the other shoe to drop.

A scientific committee in Japan said Tuesday that the lead author of a recent "breakthrough study" fabricated data and is guilty of scientific misconduct.

The scientist under question, Haruko Obokata of the RIKEN Centers for Developmental Biology, adamantly denied the fraud in a statement, Reuters reports. She claims the errors were made innocently. She plans to appeal the judgement of the panel.

Back in January, Obokata and an international team from Japan and U.S. said they had figured out a fast, easy way to make the most powerful cells in the world — embryonic stem cells — from just one blood cell.

The trick seemed remarkably simple: Put white blood cells from a baby mouse in a mild acid solution, the team reported in pair of papers in the journal Nature.

But the six-person panel set up by Riken, a top academic research facility in Japan said it found six errors in the studies. Four were innocent mistakes, the panel said. But the other two were intentional and thus fraudulent, Nature reported Tuesday.

For instance, the committee said that Obokata reused an image from her dissertation to demonstrate an unrelated experiment.

"Actions like this completely destroy data credibility," molecular biologist Shunsuke Ishii said Tuesday at a press conference in Tokyo. Ishii chaired the committee investigating the case.

"There is no doubt that she [Obokata] was fully aware of this danger," Ishii added. "We've therefore concluded this was an act of research misconduct involving fabrication."

The journal Nature said it is still investigating the studies, which have not been retracted. Scientists still don't know if the new way of making stem cells actually works.

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NPR

A Glimpse Of Listeners' #NPRpoetry — From The Punny To The Profound

It was a simple idea: Would you, our listeners, tweet us poems for National Poetry Month? Your response contained multitudes — haiku, lyrics, even one 8-year-old's ode to her dad's bald spot.
NPR

When It Came To Food, Neanderthals Weren't Exactly Picky Eaters

During the Ice Age, it seems Neanderthals tended to chow down on whatever was most readily available. Early humans, on the other hand, maintained a consistent diet regardless of environmental changes.
NPR

Every Party But The Real One: A Night Chasing The #WHCD

Washington's biggest night has gotten big because of all the parties happening around the main event. A weekend of nerd prom excess could be seen as D.C. at its worst, or D.C. at its best.
NPR

'The Guardian' Launches New Series Examining Online Abuse

A video was released this week where female sports journalists were read abusive online comments to their face. It's an issue that reaches far beyond that group, and The Guardian is taking it on in a series called "The Web We Want." NPR's Audie Cornish speaks with series editor Becky Gardiner and writer Nesrine Malik, who receives a lot of online abuse.

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