Panel: Korean scientist's stem-cell cloning research faked

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

SEOUL, South Korea -- The now-disgraced South Korean researcher who stunned the scientific community with his claim to have cloned human embryonic stem cells faked his results, relying on "fabricated data," his university said today.

Hwang Woo-suk's research team "did not have any proof to show that cloned embryonic stem cells were ever created," an investigating panel at Seoul National University said in a report, disputing claims in Hwang's 2004 paper in the journal Science purporting that he cloned a human embryo and extracted stem cells from it.

The panel found that Hwang's claims last year to have created the world's first cloned dog, however, were genuine.

The embryonic stem cell claim had raised hopes that treatments could be created for afflictions such as Alzheimer's and paralysis.

"The 2004 paper was written on fabricated data to show that the stem cells match the DNA of the provider although they didn't," the report said.

Hwang's reputation as a cloning pioneer has eroded steadily in recent months with increasing questions about his work.

Last month, a devastating report by the university concluded that Hwang fabricated another article published in Science last year. The university's nine-member investigative panel said it could not find any of the 11 stem cell lines matched to patients, as Hwang had reported in that research.

The university made the announcements Tuesday as it released the final results into its investigation of Hwang's cloning research.

Hwang, who said he would resign from the university after last month's report, has yet to do so. The university condemned the fabrications and suggested it would issue a punishment.

"This conduct cannot but be seen as an act that fools the whole scientific community and the public," it said. "Just based on the facts of the fabrications that have been disclosed, the penalty has to be severe."

South Korean prosecutors also are preparing their own investigation, which would include Hwang's allegation that other researchers in his lab maliciously switched some of his stem cells.

South Korean media have said Hwang, who received massive government funding for his research, may also face charges of misappropriation of funds.

Hwang has claimed that he has the technology to clone stem cells, and that he could reproduce his experiments.

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