Surprise! The Hwang Stem Cell Report Says All Fakes!
As if you didn’t expect that by now if you are a regular reader of this blog or interested in stem cells. But let’s memorialize it for the virtual record, and then maybe we can get on with science as usual. The cloned dog, Snuppy, is genuinely cloned, however,
There’s so much press it’s hard to decide where to start. So I think I’ll begin with the Korea Times
, which posted an English language translations of a statement from Seoul National University. This gives the essential facts and I recommend reading it for details. A nice summary is provided in Chosun Ilbo
. My summary of the statement is as follows:
- All data in the 2005 article claiming that 11 hESC lines had been established through somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning) are false.
- In the 2004 paper reporting the first cloned ES cell line, there is no evidence that the stem cell line in existence was actually derived from the stated donor.
- Snuppy the dog’s DNA was carefully tested, and the dog is indeed a clone.
- Hwang was aware that the eggs were donated voluntarily by a graduate student working with him. The research team had previously circulated a consent form for voluntary egg donation among female technicians.
- The technique Hwang claimed to have used has been used in animal eggs. There were also some developed blastocysts, “implying that the team was in possession of technique of creating cloned human blastocyst.”
In its final section, the statement says (these are excerpts):
Taken together, Hwang's research team possesses neither the patient-specific ES cell line described in 2005 publication nor the No. 1 ES cell line, the forerunner cloned cell line described in 2004 publication. The data in 2004 publication are also fabricated as can be seen by the non-match between the donor A and the No. 1 line.
Such act is none other than deceiving the scientific community and the public at large.
Even the scenario based on switching cell lines cannot explain the parthenogenetically derived cell line and cannot undo the fabrication of DNA fingerprinting data.
Not all the wrongdoing of all the individuals associated with fabricated publications can be revealed by this panel.
However, that the publications are fabricated alone mandates a severe penalty by the academia. These individuals cannot be regarded to represent science in Korea.
The young scientists who courageously pointed out the fallacy and precipitated the initiation of this investigation are our hope for the future.
OK, now for the fallout.
1—A further investigation, based in either the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office or the Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office, will try to find evidence of fraud, embezzlement, or other financial wrongdoing in how research finds were obtained and used, according to an article in the Korea Times
. The article said it was unlikely that Hwang would still be considered a plaintiff, as he has been in his allegations that the stem cell lines were tampered with or switched. The Melbourne Herald Sun
also has a story about the criminal investigation.
2--The Korea Times also reported in a different article
that Park Ky-young, presidential advisor on information, science and technology affairs, will be offering her resignation to the president of Korea, who has not yet said whether or not he will accept it.
3--A paralyzed Korean boy who had donated skin tissue, and whose mother had donated eggs, has been left emotionally high and dry after the scandal. While many people had great hopes, Hwang had told the boy he would be first in line when a treatment was available. The story is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald
and the Los Angeles Times
4—We’ll see what happens with Dr. Schatten…
Punditing and opining will continue for a while. For a sample, you can read a column by another stem cell researcher for the BBC
. I think I’ve done about all I want to on this one myself, but I’ll conclude with a hope that neither Koreans nor scientists get tarnished forever by the actions of a small group of people.