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Disgraced Japanese stem cell scientist found dead

Date
Suspected suicide: Yoshiki Sasai in April.

Suspected suicide: Yoshiki Sasai in April. Photo: AFP

Tokyo: A renowned Japanese stem cell scientist who co-wrote research that was later retracted in an embarrassing scandal has been found dead, police say.

The body of Yoshiki Sasai, 52, was discovered hanging inside the stairwell of a building that houses the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology, one of the country's most prestigious scientific research institutions.

The office is in the western city of Kobe.

Haruko Obokata, who was mentored by Yoshiki Sasai. Dr Obokata's research on stem cells published in <em>Nature</em> was found to have been falsified.

Haruko Obokata, who was mentored by Yoshiki Sasai. Dr Obokata's research on stem cells published in Nature was found to have been falsified. Photo: AP/Kyodo News

"Yoshiki Sasai was discovered hanging on Tuesday morning inside one of Riken's research buildings and, after being sent to hospital, he was confirmed dead at 11.03am," a spokesman for the Hyogo Prefectural police said.

"Police are investigating the case as a suspected suicide."

He added that authorities discovered "farewell notes" that Dr Sasai had left behind, with public broadcaster NHK reporting that one was left for Haruko Obokata.

Dr Sasai mentored Dr Obokata, whose study earlier this year was hailed as a "game-changer" in the quest to grow transplant tissue in the laboratory.

But the feted research unravelled amid claims Dr Obokata used fabricated data in her research.

Leading science journal Nature said in August it had withdrawn the study after mistakes were discovered in some data published in two papers, among other problems.

In the aftermath of the scandal, Dr Sasai was accused of failing to properly supervise Dr Obokata. He later apologised.

"It's extremely regrettable," Japan's top government spokesman and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in response to questions about Dr Sasai's death.

"Dr Sasai was a leading contributor in the field of regenerative medicine."

For help or information call Lifeline 131 114, or visit beyondblue.org.au.

Agence France-Presse

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