Scientist faked stem cell lines, officials say

Associated Press
Published December 23, 2005

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korean researcher Hwang Woo Suk faked results of at least nine of the 11 stem cell lines he claimed to have created, his university said today, in the first confirmation of allegations that put his purported breakthroughs under suspicion.

In a May paper in the journal Science, Hwang claimed to have created 11 stem cell lines matched to patients in an achievement that raised hopes of creating tailored therapies for hard-to-treat diseases. But one of his former collaborators last week said nine of the 11 cell lines were faked, prompting reviews by the journal and an expert panel at Seoul National University, where Hwang works.

In its first report on its progress Friday, the panel said it found that "the laboratory data for 11 stem cell lines that were reported in the 2005 paper were all data made using two stem cell lines in total."

To create fake DNA results purporting to show a match, Hwang's team split cells from one patient into two test tubes for the analysis - rather than actually match cloned cells to a patient's original cells, the university said.

"Based on these facts, the data in the 2005 Science paper cannot be some error from a simple mistake, but cannot be but seen as a deliberate fabrication to make it look like 11 stem cell lines using results from just two," the panel said.

The panel said DNA tests currently being performed would confirm if the remaining two stem cell lines it had found were actually successfully cloned from a patient.

In light of the revelations, the panel said it would now also investigate Hwang's other landmark papers - which include another Science article in 2004 on the world's first cloned human embryos, and an August 2005 paper in the journal Nature on the first-ever cloned dog. The journals already are reviewing all the work.