STAP is back?

Really?

Simply no, I don’ t believe so , but there’ t an interesting development and twist on the STAP cell front side.

Just a few days ago on January four, 2017  Dr . Charles Vacanti, the originator of the STAP cells concept, submitted a declaration to the  USPTO affirming the belief that STAP tissues are real and requesting that the patent office permit the rejected STAP patent application to be reconsidered.

I find a number of aspects of this development  notable:

  • The declaration says they have generated brand new data supporting STAP, but the two figures shown have been in my opinion unconvincing. More specifically, just showing some suspended spheres and an image of a single cell (not also stained for a marker) doesn’ t really prove everything. You can see a snapshot of Figure 1 above.   Note that in May 2016 an Obokata-associated website posted a few supposed STAP validation data as well, but in my watch   it too wasn’ t at all persuading.
  • qPCR results on induced appearance of pluripotency genes are mentioned, but I didn’ t see that actual data in the document or some other related documents so as far as I can tell it can’ t be evaluated at this point. Update: I’ m still searching to see if I will find a patent document that shows the new qPCR plus it may be in there somewhere. Stay tuned. BTW, you can look at the obvious documents directly yourself at this USPTO website . Plug in patent application #14/397, 080 plus click on the tab at the top that reads “ Image Document Wrapper”. I’ m not a patent expert so there might be other useful tabs at the top as well where for instance the particular qPCR data could be found or other information.
  • The declaration  expresses concern  with how Nature handled the STAP cell scenario with the retractions, indicating that in the view of some of the writers there should have been an indication that the authors believed the idea was real.
  • Why do some of the STAP authors believe in it still but many others in the originate cell field don’ t? Apparently, according to the declaration, another labs who tried the STAP method  just didn’ t use the proper technique. I have doubts about that description.   For instance,   Vacanti’ s own Harvard/B& W’ s colleague George Daley and other top stem cellular scientists published two BCA pieces   in Nature refuting the existence of STAP. Reportedly they even did some of this particular work in Vacanti’ s own lab with someone who had been an author on the STAP papers.
  • The STAP cell patent application has been transferred to a private company known as Vcell Therapeutics, Inc., which seems somewhat obscure. A Japanese blog has dug into  this situation and mentions a L. Kelly Ganjei , a name I’ m unfamiliar with, as a leader of Vcell. There’ s even several speculation that Vcell may be short for “ Vacanti cell”, but I don’ t know about that. Provided the sound of the company’ s name I can’ to help but think of VSELs , one more controversial  kind of stem cell, when reading the word “ Vcell”.

For background you might find the interview with Vacanti several days after the now retracted Nature STAP papers came out, to be an interesting read.

Overall, I’ m not any more convinced now that STAP is real, but with this declaration and the emergence associated with Vcell it seems that there may be an attempt to commercialize the technologies or at least there are hopes for that. Given the Hwang experience of SCNT at the USPTO, it is possible that the STAP method might yet receive a patent.

To be clear, does  stressing cells change their fate and properties a lot more generally in some ways when it doesn’ t kill them? Indeed, but I just don’ t believe it reprograms somatic cells into pluripotent stem cells a la STAP.

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