October 27, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Latest STAP stem cell whispers: glimmers of hope or mirages?

STAP stem cells hope or mirage?
STAP stem cells hope or mirage?

On the STAP cell front, I’ve heard several reports now that labs can sometimes see some kind of either Oct4-GFP reporter activity or pluripotency gene expression in acid treated cells, but the scientists do not seem particularly encouraged.

One said that the cells gave a glimmer of interesting gene expression, but would not grow at all and s/he thought the gene expression and Oct4-GFP may have been manifestations of cell death leading to weird chromatin decondensation events.

Another lab had cells growing after acid treatment but only saw at best the faintest, transient sign of pluripotency indicators. The cells did not look “normal” whatever that means.

So overall either the cells with even slightly encouraging signs wouldn’t grow or the cells that would grow were not encouraging in terms of seeming at all like pluripotent stem cells.

By far the most common message I’m getting from people, however, is that they’ve  simply given up trying to replicate STAP stem cells at least until the detailed methods paper on STAP stem cells comes out. I think some have given up entirely.

If we give STAP stem cells a year to be reproduced as Dr. Wakayama has suggested and which seems reasonable to me, I would argue that it is still important that labs working on the method communicate, share data if they are comfortable doing so, and keep a critical eye on all of this.

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