Researcher Hwang Apologizes for Fabricated Stem Cell Evidence in Articles
South Korean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo Suk on Thursday apologized for fabricated evidence in articles published in the journal Science in March 2004 and June 2005 but said that he was unaware of the fraud, the Washington Post reports (Faiola, Washington Post, 1/12).
The final report of an investigative committee at Seoul National University, where Hwang worked, this week determined that Hwang fabricated evidence in all of his published articles on human cloning. The committee last month found no evidence that Hwang cloned cells from patients with a new, highly efficient technique, as he claimed in the June 2005 article. The latest report from the committee indicates Hwang also fabricated evidence in the March 2004 article and has never cloned human embryonic stem cell lines (California Healthline, 1/11).
At a news conference televised nationwide in South Korea, Hwang said, "I feel so miserable it is difficult even to say sorry. I will be repenting this for the rest of my life" (Demick, Los Angelis Times, 1/12).
Hwang added that his research team had cloned 101 embryos through the transfer of the nuclei of adult body cells into human cells, an accomplishment he described as "still the best in the world." He said that the fraud occurred after he sent the embryos to MizMedi Hospital in Seoul, where specialists extracted stem cell lines from fertilized eggs.
Hwang said that, when MizMedi researchers told him they had extracted stem cells from the cloned embryos, "I felt my dream come true." Hwang said, "I 100% trusted what they told me. Now I believe that they completely cheated me." MizMedi has denied the allegations (Sang-Hun, International Herald Tribune/New York Times, 1/12).
In related news, a team of seven South Korean prosecutors on Wednesday was formed to investigate accusations that Hwang misused state funds (Herskovitz, Reuters/Washington Times, 1/12).
The Hwang controversy provides the field of stem cell research with "the opportunity to modulate the extravagant expectations for this research while we reaffirm our underlying commitment to it," David Shaywitz, an endocrinologist at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece.
The "demand for results" has "far outstripped the ability of researchers to supply them," Shaywitz writes, adding that "it is common knowledge that the bar for publication in the field often has appeared remarkably low." He writes that "we need to recognize just how arduous and painstaking good science usually is and remind ourselves that data do not become dogma when published, but only when independently validated" (Shaywitz, Washington Post, 1/12).