Hwang Denies Allegations
The story is changing rapidly, so by the time you read this something else may have happened….Be warned!
In the latest installment of the scientific melodrama that Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk’s cloning research has become, Hwang has denied fabricating the research. The Sidney Morning-Herald
reports that Hwang said he made 11 stem cells lines, that all 6 researchers involved agree to this, and that the cells have been contaminated with a fungus. He suspects tampering. He also said that he expects analysis of five frozen stem cell lines within 10 days. He was “shocked” at Dr. Roh Sung-il's allegations.
According to a Chosun Ilbo
story, Hwang suggested that the errors in documentation in the cloning article were a result of stem cells being mixed up with others stored at the fertility center from which he obtained the eggs. He is requesting a judicial investigation. Meanwhile, Roh is sticking to his story and “accused Hwang of trying to pass the buck.” The Korea Times
reports that Hwang believes the mix-up was intentional. The Seoul District Prosecutor’s office said that they could not look into the issue without a lawsuit because the scientific community has not yet agreed on the answers to the underlying questions.
The Korea Times also reports
that Roh has accused Dr. Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh of actually being the writer of the paper in question and said that he should have known that “the patient-specific stem cells are not real considering the incredibly quick growth of the cells.” Roh called Schatten an accomplice.
The International Herald Tribune
reports that “both sides admitted grave mistakes in the handling of the research data and agreed to retract their joint paper published in the journal Science in June.” The IHT also says that he cited “irrevocable mistakes” but stood by the core findings:
Hwang said that six stem cell colonies were destroyed by a fungus infection in January, but his team quickly created six more to create a total of 11 lines. He said it was only in November, after MBC-TV began its inquiry, that he discovered that some of the 11 colonies presented for the Science article were not his, but instead were Miz Medi samples. Hwang did not explain the whereabouts of the missing cell lines. He said his team would test the remaining five stem cell lines in his lab to see if they were authentic. He said the results would come in a couple weeks.
An AP story reprinted various places, including the San Diego Union Tribune
, reiterates that Hwang has asked the journal Science to withdraw the article but still defends the overall results. It adds some information from other sources:
The researcher from Roh's hospital who reportedly was ordered to fabricate results defended Hwang on Friday. In an interview with KBS television in the United States, where he is assigned to the University of Pittsburgh, Kim Sun-jong said he had personally seen eight stem cell lines and another three being nurtured.
The AP story also quotes an American cloning researcher as saying that when Hwang was questioned November 9 at a scientific meeting, he appeared “confident and believable.” The scientist continues to give Hwang the benefit of the doubt.Reuters
reports that stock shares in Korean biotech firms took a plunge, but that it was mostly panic selling and very few of the companies are actually involved in stem cell research.
Today’s Questions: Who has more credibility, Roh or Hwang? And why? (Does Roh benefit from Hwang’s fall?) What will Schatten say now?
My entirely subjective guess on what will happen next: the stem cell lines being tested will not survive the testing. I hope I’m wrong. But it seems like this will end as a Shakespearean tragedy, bodies strewn everywhere and only the bystanders left to wonder what went wrong.