South Korean stem cell research discredited

3 January 2006

Following the resignation of the internationally renowned South Korean stem cell researcher Professor Hwang Woo-Suk after controversy over ethical issues surrounding his latest work on the production of patient specific stem cell lines, a panel from Seoul National University (SNU) has announced its conclusion that these stem cells were never actually produced. The investigators reported that they were unable to find stem cells matching the DNA of patient tissues; researcher Roe Jung-hye said: "It is the panel's judgement that Professor Hwang's team does not have the scientific data to prove that they (patient-specific stem cells) were made" (see BBC news report). Hwang has submitted his resignation to Seoul National University, having already stepped down from public appointments, including the chairmanship of the World Stem Cell Hub, when the allegations of ethical irregularities were confirmed.

This news is a significant blow for stem-cell research; the groundbreaking paper published in Science in May 2005 reporting the production of eleven different patient-specific stem cell lines was hailed as a breakthrough in therapeutic cloning. Hwang has requested that the journal retract this paper but reportedly said that despite "various serious errors and shortfalls" his team had indeed created patient-specific stem cells and that his research techniques would be vindicated (see Science news report). Earlier published work by Hwang Woo-Suk is currently under review.

UK expert Alison Murdoch from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who leads a group licensed by the HFEA to conduct therapeutic cloning research, aid:

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