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Two Retractions for Japanese Stem Cell Researcher

Jesse Jenkins

The retraction of two stem cell papers are just the latest repercussions of fraudulent claims that were made by a recently dismissed University of Tokyo researcher.

Hisashi Moriguchi, a former visiting researcher at the University of Tokyo, and colleagues have retracted two stem cell research papers. The notices cite a lack of "accuracy of the results and conclusions" and false claims of institutional affiliation.

Hisashi Moriguchi, a former visiting researcher at the University of Tokyo, and colleagues have retracted two stem cell research papers. Source: Getty Images

The two papers (1-2) were originally published earlier this year by Scientific Reports, a Nature publication journal. The retraction notices were posted on the journal’s website on November 9. Both notices read:

The authors cannot guarantee the accuracy of the results and conclusions described in this article and wish to retract it. In addition, Hisashi Moriguchi's affiliation is incorrect. He is affiliated with University of Tokyo but not with Massachusetts General Hospital nor with Harvard Medical School. The study did not receive Institutional Review Board approval.

Sara Grimme, publishing manager at Scientific Reports, said that the decision to retract the papers came from the authors, so the journal never investigated the inaccuracies mentioned in the notices. "The review process is very thorough, and both of these papers were thoroughly reviewed," she said.

In the papers, Moriguchi and colleagues wrote that their research was approved by the institutional review boards at Harvard Medical School and the University of Tokyo. But Moriguchi is not currently affiliated with Harvard.

Susan McGreevey, manager of science and research communications at Massachusetts General Hospital, said this isn’t exactly something new for Moriguchi. In 1999, Moriguchi was a visiting fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, the primary teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. In 2003, he was offered a temporary appointment as a participant in an academic activity, but he never showed up. Since then, Moriguchi has falsely been claiming affiliation with those institutions even though he has no current affiliation with either.

"The work in the two retracted Scientific Reports papers was not done at Massachusetts General Hospital, and neither these studies nor any others led by Hisashi Moriguchi were ever submitted to or approved by IRBs at Massachusetts General, Harvard Medical School, or Harvard University," said McGreevey.

After the Nobel Prize was awarded last month to two stem cell researchers for reprogramming adult cells into pluripotent cells, Moriguchi announced that he had successfully treated six patients with heart conditions at Massachusetts General Hospital in February 2012. He said that he used transplanted cardiac muscle cells made from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. But Nature News reported that many colleagues were highly skeptical of Moriguchi’s claims.

The scope of Moriguchi's fraudulent claims came to light during the NY Stem Cell Foundation’s Seventh Annual Translational Stem Cell Research Conference in New York on October 11-12. Moriguchi attended the event to present a poster, but before he could, his poster was taken down.

Afterward, Susan L. Solomon, the foundation’s chief executive officer, issued a statement that read:

The foundation has received information from Harvard University that raises legitimate questions concerning a poster presentation by Hisashi Moriguchi of The University of Tokyo.... In any instance where the foundation has questions regarding the research presented, it reserves the right to withdraw display and presentation of an abstract, and has done so in this instance.

On October 13, Moriguchi appeared at a press conference in New York. He admitted that he had fabricated significant details of his clinical trial and said that his research career was "probably over."

A week later, the Daily Yomiuri and other Japanese newspapers reported that the University of Tokyo dismissed Moriguchi effective October 19.

Since then, Moriguchi’s other published research have also been called into question by co-authors and collaborators in an attempt to distance themselves. One former collaborator was Raymond Chung, medical director of the liver transplant program at Massachusetts General Hospital who had assisted in editing the manuscripts of several technical reports in other journals but not the two retracted papers.

"Based on these revelations, Dr. Chung informed the editors of other publications on which he and Moriguchi were co-authors that he was no longer confident of the accuracy of the work," said McGreevey. "The journals that Dr. Chung contacted about other papers were Hepatology and Gastroenterology."


1. Moriguchi, H., Y. Zhang, M. Mihara, and C. Sato. 2012. A therapeutic method for the direct reprogramming of human liver cancer cells with only chemicals. Sci Rep. 2:280

2. Moriguchi, H., Y. Zhang, M. Mihara, and C. Sato. 2012. Successful cryopreservation of human ovarian cortex tissues using supercooling. Sci Rep. 2:537