It was a tale of two meetings when it came to STAP at ISSCR.
Officially, bigwigs at the podiums only briefly mentioned it and they seemed to collectively argue that STAP was something unfortunate, but that the bigger danger was the overreaction to it.
Thus, remarkably their key concern seemed to be their perception of an overreaction to STAP rather than STAP itself.
Outside the lecture halls in the other halls (between rooms of the convention center) and in the restaurants, etc., it was an entirely different story. Amongst the general population of stem cell researchers, the STAP cell situation itself was considered the big deal. Although there was definitely some serious STAP fatigue and I share that, people still were eager to talk about it.
Below is a list of the top points raised by people at the meeting regarding STAP. I’m not endorsing these notions or saying they are right and indeed some may just be gossip, but they are intriguing to think about nonetheless:
- 1. If the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) is “disbanded”, it will most likely be reconstituted under a new name with mostly the same people. Just wishful thinking?
- 2. Most of us stem cell folks are opposed to any kind of punitive action taken against the CDB overall. Why punish the whole CDB?
- 3. Part of the motivation for the intense misguided push initially for STAP cells was due to the STAP folks wanting to compete and “beat” iPS cells. Wildly misguided by those involved?
- 4. The whole STAP cell fiasco germinated from lack of fundamental knowledge of cell biology with naive misinterpretation of autofluorescence of dead and dying cells and from ignorance of stem cells.
- 5. STAP cells used in the mouse studies in the Nature letter were most likely actually a combination of ES cells and trophoblastic stem cells.
- 6. Nature published the STAP papers despite at least some remaining reviewer concerns.
- 7. RIKEN is having Obokata “help” with the STAP replication efforts so that if/when they fail that should be the final end OR, alternatively and pretty much the opposite, RIKEN/the government are hoping that Obokata can get some vaguely positive results leaving the STAP issue not entirely dead and that the vagueness will keep things uncertain for years.
What are you hearing?