Japan chastises Nobel laureate-led research team after data fabrication

Nobel medicine laureate Shinya Yamanaka of Japan speaks during a news conference at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Bertil Enevag Ericson/Scanpix Sweden

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan chastised a Kyoto University stem cell research team led by Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka on Tuesday after a team member fabricated data in his paper, saying it shook people’s trust in scientific research.

Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi’s comments came a day after Kyoto University announced that a researcher at Yamanaka’s research unit had falsified data in his paper published last year in the U.S. scientific journal Stem Cell Reports.

The misconduct “is something that shakes the people’s trust in research activities and is extremely regrettable,” Hayashi told reporters. “We would like to instruct Kyoto University to do its utmost to prevent a recurrence.”

Yamanaka in 2012 shared a Nobel Prize for medicine with British scientist John Gurdon for the discovery that adult cells can be transformed back into embryo-like stem cells that may one day regrow tissue in damaged brains, hearts or other organs.

“I regret and reflect that the research paper misconduct like this happened,” Yamanaka told reporters. “I offer my heartfelt apology.”

Kyoto University has already asked for retraction of the paper.

In a recent case of discredited research findings, Japanese scientist Haruko Obokata in 2014 detailed simple ways to reprogram mature animal cells back to an embryonic-like state in research papers published in the scientific journal Nature.

But questions soon arose about her research as other scientists could not replicate the claims and a research institute she was working for said she had plagiarized and fabricated parts of the papers.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Nick Macfie