World and Nation

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One author of a stem cell study calls for its retraction

TOKYO — One of the authors of a study that was claimed to have discovered a simple way to make stem cells said Monday that he was no longer sure of his team’s conclusions, and he called for the study to be retracted.

The study, laid out in two papers published by Nature in January surprised scientists around the world by finding that a simple acid bath might turn cells in the body into multipurpose stem cells. The new technique could be a quicker and easier source of stem cells than methods now in use, the authors said.

But Monday, Teruhiko Wakayama, a professor of developmental engineering at the University of Yamanashi and one of the study’s co-authors, told NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, that a series of concerns raised in recent weeks by researchers around the world had shaken his belief in the study’s findings.

“There are too many overall issues that I am not sure about. I am increasingly uncertain,” Wakayama told NHK.

The new technique was developed by researchers at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Haruko Obokata, the 30-year-old lead writer of the study’s two papers and a rising star in Japan’s scientific community, has become an overnight celebrity here and a symbol of the rising stature of female scientists.

Still, some experts quickly expressed caution, saying more needed to be known about the new approach.

Caution turned to skepticism as researchers reported trouble in replicating the study’s results.

Some of the photos used in the study were then called into question, as was wording that was found to be similar to that in an article published by different researchers almost a decade ago.

Those questions prompted both Riken and Nature to begin separate investigations into the study’s integrity last month.

Wakayama said that the numerous questions raised left the authors with little choice but to retract the paper.

—Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times

Adam Lanza’s father says ‘you can’t get any more evil’

Peter Lanza had not seen his son Adam for two years before the day Adam walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and killed 20 schoolchildren and six adults.

Since that morning, Lanza cannot go an hour without thinking about his child. And now, he says, he wishes his son had never been born.

“You can’t get any more evil,” he said in his first public comments since the shooting. “How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he’s my son? A lot.”

In a series of emotionally wrenching interviews with the writer Andrew Solomon, Lanza detailed his son’s medical history and increasing isolation, his ex-wife’s struggle to deal with their troubled child, and his own role as the father of the person who committed one of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history.

Solomon, the author of the book “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity,” recounts the interviews in an article in this week’s issue of The New Yorker magazine.

Adam Lanza, 20, shot his mother, Nancy, before going on his shooting rampage at Sandy Hook on Dec. 14, 2012, and then shot himself just as the police were arriving at the elementary school.

Peter Lanza’s account confirms the basic portrait that emerged from the investigation, and adds new details as well as a deeper understanding of how he and Adam’s mother struggled to understand and care for their son. Lanza described Adam’s behavior as a child as “weird” but never dangerous. He said that the first official diagnosis they received concerning Adam’s mental health came when he was 13.

The diagnosis was Asperger’s syndrome, a category that the American Psychiatric Association has since subsumed into the broader diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. Adam refused to accept that he had the disorder.

Peter Lanza said that the diagnosis might have kept them from realizing the danger their son posed.

—Marc Santora, The New York Times

Report cites ‘devastating toll’ on health of Syria’s children

The Syrian civil war’s effect on the health of Syria’s children is far more insidious than has been widely understood, a leading children’s advocacy group reported Sunday, with large numbers dying or at risk from chronic and preventable diseases that have flourished because the country’s public health system has basically collapsed.

In a report timed to coincide with the beginning of the fourth year of the conflict, the group, Save the Children, said the effects of untreated illnesses on Syrian children were only partly reflected in the documented statistics.

They show that at least 1.2 million children have fled to neighboring countries, that 4.3 million in Syria need humanitarian assistance and that more than 10,000 have died in the violence.

“It is not just the bullets and the shells that are killing and maiming children,” said the report, “A Devastating Toll.” The conflict, which began in March 2011, has left a “shattered health system resulting in brutal medical practices that have left millions of children suffering,” the report said.

The report asserted that “several thousands of children” had died because of greatly reduced access to treatment for diseases including cancer, epilepsy, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and kidney failure. The report is based partly on conclusions drawn from data that has been issued by other organizations, including the United Nations and the World Health Organization, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Doctors Without Borders, and other medical research, as well as from the Syrian government.

But the report also draws on Save the Children’s own research, including interviews with Syrian children, parents and medical providers who painted what amounted to a portrait of medieval health conditions.

—Rick Gladstone, The New York Times