What’s Going on with Those Stem Cells?

Dec 15, 2005 11:53am

An explosive-sounding story this morning from the AP in Seoul:

SEOUL, South Korea Dec 15, 2005 — A doctor who provided human eggs for research by cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk said in a broadcast Thursday that the South Korean scientist admitted that most of the stem cells produced for a key research paper were faked.

Roh Sung-il, chairman of the board at Mizmedi Hospital, told KBS television that Hwang had agreed to ask the journal SCIENCE to withdraw the paper, published in June to international acclaim. Roh was one of the co-authors of the article that detailed how individual stem cell colonies were created for 11 patients through cloning.

Roh also told MBC television that Hwang had pressured a former scientist at his lab to fake data to make it look like there were 11 stem cell colonies…. (The rest of the piece is HERE.)

If this is true, this is a big setback in the arcane world of stem-cell research.  Hwang Woo-Suk is the leader in the field.  Working at Seoul National University, he and his team reported that they had cloned the first human embryo cells–a technique they said would advance the creation of stem cells to treat disease.  They also cloned Snuppy the dog, proclaimed by TIME Magazine as "Invention of the Year."

And now they admit they’re faking it?  Not so fast.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes SCIENCE, put out a quick statement:

" …Neither Dr. Hwang nor any of his co-authors have requested a retraction. Science editors have asked Dr. Hwang and his co-authors for clarification regarding unconfirmed news reports about requests for a retraction. For a paper to be retracted, Dr. Hwang Woo-suk and all co-authors must agree to the retraction."

This story, as they say, is "developing."  More later if we get it.

By the way, I was asked yesterday about the acronym MSM.  Stands for "Main-Stream Media."  Often used as an expletive. 

As my daughter would type, g2g bb. (Updated version of "I must depart; fare thee well.")

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