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Korean Stem Cell Scientist Speaks Out

Researcher Reportedly Stands by His Controversial Study
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Editor’s Note: In December 2005, a panel from South Korea’s Seoul National University said it found no proof to support the scientists’ claims of creating tailored stem cells.

Dec. 16, 2005 -- Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang, DVM, PhD, is reportedly standing by stem cell research he published earlier this year, despite charges of false findings in that work.

At a televised news conference in South Korea, Hwang reportedly said that tests will validate his stem cell work, and that he expected the test results in 10 days.

Hwang's study was published in the June print edition of Science.

According to the Science web site, on Dec. 16 the journal received a request from Hwang and one of his co-authors, Gerald Schatten, PhD, to withdraw the paper. Science says its policy is that all authors must agree to a retraction; the journal says Hwang has given his assurances that he will contact his co-authors.

The uproar about the study is prompting an investigation. Korea's Seoul National University, where Hwang works, has pledged to investigate the study, according to Science's web site.

Allegations

The study claimed to have succeeded at creating stem cells that match a patient's genetic material.

Korean news stations have aired allegations by one of Hwang's Korean co-authors that several stem cell lines used in the study were faked. Reports of those allegations are noted on the web site of another scientific journal, Nature.

In the Dec. 16 news conference, according to Reuters, Hwang said he and his six research members had "no doubt" that they had made all of the stem cell lines.

Hwang also reportedly said that the cells had been badly contaminated by a fungus and that he planned to ask investigators to follow up on his suspicion that those cells may have been tampered with or replaced. In addition, Hwang reportedly said that a follow-up paper had been submitted to another journal.

Hwang had been hospitalized for several days due to stress, according to news reports in Science and the Associated Press.

Hwang, who has been considered a pioneer in cloning research, has lately been under fire for other ethical breaches.

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