Panel slams faked Korea cloning

Disgraced South Korean Scientist Hwang Woo-suk's pioneering claim to have cloned human embryonic stem cells was faked, an investigating panel has found.

    Hwang's supporters say he remains a national hero

    Announcing their findings on Tuesday, a nine-member panel of scientists at Seoul National University said Hwang's team "did not have any proof to show that cloned embryonic stem cells were ever created."

     

    He did, though, produce the world's first cloned dog, the scientists said.

     

    Presenting its conclusions to reporters in Seoul, the panel said data had been deliberately fabricated in the papers produced by Hwang's team.

     

    Medical researchers say the episode is one of the biggest cases of scientific fraud in recent history.

     

    The story has sent shockwaves throughout the scientific community and South Korea where Hwang had come to be regarded by many as a national hero.

     

    The case centred on two landmark research papers in 2004 claiming to have produced the first cloned human embryos for research, and a 2005 paper on producing the first embryonic tailored stem cells.

     

    'Fabricated'

     

    "Hwang's team did not have the data for the stem cell lines in the 2004 paper, but fabricated it"

    Chung Myung-hee, Head of investigating panel

    "Hwang's team did not have the data for the stem cell lines in the 2004 paper, but fabricated it," Chung Myung-hee, the head of the university investigating panel, told reporters.

     

    The same panel said in an interim report last month that there was no data to prove Hwang's team produced tailored stem cells, as it claimed in a May 2005 paper published in the US periodical Science.

     

    The 2005 paper caused a sensation because the findings raised hopes that embryonic stem cells could one day be used to create genetically specific tissue to treat ailments such as severe spinal cord injuries and Parkinson's disease.

     

    "We concluded that Professor Hwang's team did not have patient-specific stem cell lines and did not have any scientific basis that the team made them," the panel said.

     

    However, the panel said DNA analysis had proved a 2005 claim made by the team to have produced the world's first cloned dog - an Afghan hound named Snuppy, short for Seoul National University puppy.

     

    Punishment

     

    Hwang pictured in 2003 with a 
    cloned cow

    Prosecutors have said they may start a criminal probe into Hwang on suspicion of misusing state funds based on the findings in the panel's report.

     

    Hwang has made no public comment or appearances since he announced he would resign from Seoul National University on 23 December.

     

    Following the release of the report, the university has condemned Hwang’s actions and suggested it would punish him.

     

    "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."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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