Regenerative Medicine

Research of South Korean Embryo-Destructive Stem Cell Scientist Declared Fabricated

The research of Korean embryonic stem-cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk has been declared “intentionally fabricated” by a panel of scientists at Seoul National University.

“Based on these findings, data in the 2005 Science journal cannot be regarded as a simple accidental error but as intentional fabrication made out of two stem cells,” the investigators reported. “This is a serious wrongdoing that has damaged the foundation of science.” The once national hero said, “I sincerely apologise to the people for creating shock and disappointment”…

after the announcement [BBC; SEOUL, 23Dec05,].

Hwang has resigned:  “As a symbol of apology, I step down as professor of Seoul National University.” Despite admissions from Hwang’s colleagues that the embryonic stem cell research was faked and the SNU probe confirmed it, Hwang was still defiant 23Dec saying that he did produce patient-specific cells [, 24Dec05].

Professor of veterinary medicine Hwang Woo Suk’s unregulated attempts to clone a human being were hit with ethics charges from an American scientist [Dr. Schatten Univ Pittsburgh] who quit Hwang’s team, following disclosure of possible coercion in obtaining eggs for money from young female researchers. Apparently, some of the photos of cell colonies supposedly derived from 11 patients were duplicates. [FRC, 6Dec05]

Dr. Schatten demanded that his name be removed from an article he co-wrote with Hwang for the journal Science. The photographs in the article are probably duplicates of one another.

Hwang’s associate, Dr. Roh Sung-il, said that Hwang pressured scientists in the lab at Mizmedi Hospital to fake project data. Corruption is an inextricable part of this misguided scheme. [FRC, 15Dec05]

South Korean Univ began its investigation into the fraudulent embryonic stem cell research conducted by Hwang and his team. Hwang’s team [5/05 Science medical journal] argued it had overcome a significant hurdle for embryonic stem cells by cloning patient-specific cells.

Chairman Chung Myung-hee acknowledged there were “fatal errors” in the research paper — more than duplicated photographs of the same stem cells. Though a top associate of Hwang’s contended all but 2 of the 11 embryonic stem cell lines were fabricated and the authenticity of the remaining lines were unknown,

Hwang defended the research and claimed he could prove some of it was true. SNU officials released a statement saying they were also questioning Hwang’s colleagues and reviewing their work. Some 20 researchers have been questioned already. The panel planned to begin preliminary investigations now and an in-depth probe later, but it decided to conduct both investigations at the same time. “We decided that preliminary investigations are unnecessary, because Hwang and Administrator Roh Sung-il of MizMedi Hospital have made different statements, and Hwang already admitted manipulating the paper,” one official said [Donga newspaper South Korea]. The committee will look into the problems associated with the duplicated photos and DNA published in the Science paper as well as looking at the actual research results. The committee will conduct tests on five embryonic stem cell lines to determine if Hwang’s claims are true. [, 19Dec05; Seoul, South Korea]

On 23Dec05, the Genetics Policy Institute, an advocacy group fighting for more taxpayer funding for embryo-destructive stem cell research, withdrew its 2005 Global Achievement Award given to Hwang at its annual dinner [Houston, 5/05]. Siegel [exec dir GPI]: “The Global Achievement Award was intended for an individual who has made a monumental worldwide contribution to the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine…The basis for recognizing Dr. Hwang was his reported landmark achievement in the creation of patient-matched stem cell lines. However, the results of an investigation by Seoul National University have shown that Hwang’s results were largely fabricated,” Siegel explained [, 24Dec05].

Observers are now questioning whether Hwang’s claims to have cloned an Afghan hound it named Snuppy in 8/05 are false too.

Professor Trounson [stem cell researcher, Australia’s Monash Univ] says the Snuppy claims are “very much in doubt now.” “I think a lot of the community were very impressed with the cloning of a dog — and it was a delightful dog — but I actually don’t think it is a cloned dog now,” Trounson said.

The journal Nature, which published the report about Snuppy, is reviewing the paper to see if the results are authentic. [Comment:

Note this from Richard Doerflinger: “It’s all very well to say one scandal shouldn’t set back the field, but Hwang’s team was the field,” said Richard Doerflinger [Dir, USCCB, e-mail]. “If his results are false, then after 7 years of attempts worldwide no one has succeeded in getting even the first step in ‘therapeutic cloning’ to work on a practical scale. At what point do legislators stop throwing away good money after bad?”

While the major media insists on portraying the embryo-destructive stem cell opposition as “just religious belief”, the reality is that using embryos is probably a very expensive dead end. (N. Valko, RN)][
Stem Cell Fraud Worries U.S. Scientists] [, 24Dec05]