Japanese scientist dies by suicide after stem-cell research scandal

A Japanese researcher at the centre of discredited research that was initially hailed as a potential breakthrough for stem-cell treatment, killed himself after months of stress and exhaustion, officials said on Tuesday.

Yoshiki Sasai, co-author of the high-profile research that had seemed to offer hope for replacing damaged cells or even growing new human organs, was found early on Tuesday at the Riken institute where he worked in Kobe, western Japan, police and the institute said.

It is confirmed as a suicide, said a police spokesman. It was a hanging.

Sasai, 52, had been hospitalized in March for stress and become less receptive to media inquiries during the controversy over the teams research, said Riken spokesman Satoru Kagaya.

The scientist had seemed completely exhausted in their last phone conversation around May or June, Kagaya told a televised news conference.

As deputy director of Rikens Center for Developmental Biology, Sasai supervised the work of lead author Haruko Obokata, which took the world of molecular biology by storm when it was published in the British journal Nature in January.

It was retracted after months of controversy that made front-page news in Japan and tarnished the countrys reputation for scientific research.

The journals editor-in-chief, Phil Campbell, issued a statement in London describing Sasais death as a true tragedy for science and an immense loss to the research community.

Yoshiki Sasai was an exceptional scientist and he has left an extraordinary legacy of pioneering work across many fields within stem cell and developmental biology, Campbell said.

It is very unfortunate that this happened, said the governments top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. Mr Sasai contributed greatly in the field of developmental biology and was an internationally renowned researcher.

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Japanese scientist dies by suicide after stem-cell research scandal

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