Fri, Dec 23, 2005 - Page 5 News List

University to test disputed stem cells' DNA


Stem cells used in research by an embattled South Korean scientist who had been hailed as a cloning pioneer are to undergo DNA tests to check if he fabricated any results, his university said yesterday.

The announcement by Seoul National University followed a decision by a second scientific journal to launch an investigation into Hwang Woo-suk's claims to have created the world's first cloned dog -- apparent fallout from probes into other allegations questioning his groundbreaking research.

The London-based journal Nature said in a statement this week that it had no information casting doubt on Hwang's paper -- which it published in August -- in which he described how his laboratory had purportedly produced an Afghan hound named "Snuppy," the world's first cloned dog.


But given allegations that Hwang faked results on other research, the journal said in a statement this week that there is "sufficient uncertainty ... for us to wish to remove any doubts over the Nature paper."

Nature said its investigation probably wouldn't be complete before next month.

Seoul National University, where Hwang works, is already looking into allegations that he faked the creation of 11 human stem cell lines that were genetically matched to individual patients, results that were released in May by the US journal Science.

A nine-member university panel said yesterday that it has commissioned three professional institutes to conduct DNA tests on samples of stem cells from Hwang's lab. However, the test results won't be available today when the panel plans to announce an interim report on the investigation, the university said in a statement.

The panel will today announce results of their analysis of research notes, computer files and documents, the university said.

Third paper

A former colleague of Hwang's, Moon Shin-yong, said on Wednes-day that he had asked the university to also investigate a third paper that he co-authored and which was published in Science last year, in which researchers claimed to have created the world's first cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them.

"In the scientific community, when one paper is proven to be fabricated, it is customary to review all related papers," Moon said.

Moon, who was questioned by the university on Wednesday, added that he didn't yet know of any problem with the article.

Science said on Tuesday that it was also investigating Hwang's paper from last year.

At issue are two vital photographs that Hwang used to illustrate his breakthrough claim. They appear identical to photos of stem cells that appeared in 2003 in the journal Molecules and Cells in an article describing a routine experiment.

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