Sun, Jan 01, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Stem cell fraud defends his technique

INSISTENT The disgraced South Korean scientist believes that the process he used to produce cells is feasible and that any investigation will vindicate him


Disgraced South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk insisted he has the technology to produce embryonic stem cells individually tailored to patients even though a panel of his peers said he didn't produce any such cells, a newspaper reported yesterday.

A university panel said on Thursday Hwang did not produce any patient-specific stem cells as claimed in a paper published in May in the journal Science, dealing a shattering blow to the already disgraced scientist's reputation as a medical pioneer.

But Hwang stood by his work.

"I definitely have the source technology to produce tailored embryonic stem cells," Hwang was quoted as saying in Beopbo, a South Korean Buddhist newspaper. "I can replicate the process any time."

Scientists hope to someday use stem cells -- master cells that can grow into any body tissue -- to cure diseases such as Alzheimer's and diabetes. Creating stem cells genetically matched to specific patients would be a breakthrough because they would not be rejected by the patients' individual immune systems.

Hwang was last seen in public more than a week ago when he resigned as professor at Seoul National University following the university's initial report that his team had deliberately fabricated data in the May paper to make it look like they had created 11 colonies of stem cells genetically matched to specific patients.

The university panel found that Hwang had faked the research on nine of the stem cell lines. It later confirmed the two remaining cell lines were also fabricated but it wasn't clear whether they were faked by Hwang or scientists at Seoul's Mizmedi Hospital who collaborated with his research team.

Hwang has filed a complaint with prosecutors that some of the stem cell lines his team created were replaced by those made at Mizmedi.

"It's certain [stem cells] have been switched," Hwang was quoted as saying, claiming the replacement took place "under a detailed plan over quite a long period of time."

"Once an investigation starts it will take about a couple of days to bring to light the truth," Hwang said, according to the newspaper.

Mizmedi Hospital has denied switching the stem cell colonies.

Prosecutors have said they will wait until the university probe is completed before launching their own investigation.

Seoul National University plans to release the final results of the investigation -- including those into Hwang's earlier purported breakthroughs such as the world's first cloned human embryo and first cloned dog -- later this month

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