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Korean sleuths bring bad news for Hwang

December 29, 2005 By David Cyranoski This article courtesy of Nature News.

It's back to the start for research on patient-specific stem cells.

There is no evidence that Woo Suk Hwang's stem cells came from patient-specific clones, according to the Seoul National University (SNU) team that has been investigating the South Korean researcher.

The team's announcement at a press conference on 29 December means that it has found no evidence to support Hwang's 2005 Science paper1, which was seen as an important step towards therapeutic cloning treatments for disease. Hwang has already said he will ask for the paper to be withdrawn because of problems with the data.

"Currently, we cannot find stem cells that have identical DNA fingerprint traces with patients and Hwang's team does not have scientific data to prove they did harvest patient-specific stem cells," said Jung-Hye Roe, director of research at SNU.

The same SNU team reported last week that at least nine of eleven stem-cell lines in Hwang's 2005 Science paper were not what the paper claimed them to be (see ' Investigation says Hwang lied').

Now it adds that the remaining two lines, which Hwang said would prove to be legitimate, do not match the DNA of patients. Instead they match cells from other, normal embryos created by in vitro fertilization.

The team also looked at six other stem-cell lines. According to Korean media reports, these were cell lines established after Hwang's submission of the 2005 paper. Hwang said they would prove that he had, if belatedly, created patient-specific stem-cell lines. But the investigating team says that it found no evidence for this.

The investigators plan to submit a final report in mid-January. This press conference was called, they said, to help clarify the situation in the meantime.

Roe says the final report will also reveal results of tests on a stem-cell line reported in Science in 2004. This work was celebrated as being the first good evidence for a line derived from a cloned human embryo.

And the report will look at a Nature paper in which Hwang's team claimed to have created the first cloned dog, Snuppy2. Korean newspapers this week reported that tests carried out at Hwang's request prove the dog is a true clone, but SNU has not finished its own investigation. Nature's Snuppy inquiry is ongoing.


  1. Hwang W. S., et al. Science, 308. 1777 - 1783 (2005).
  2. Lee B.C., et al. Nature, 436. 641 (2005).


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