• Health

Independent Panel Confirms Stem Cell Fraud

2 minute read
Alice Park and Stella Kim

South Korean stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang took another hit on Tuesday when an investigative panel concluded that the groundbreaking stem cell cloning research that launched him to international fame was faked.

Last month, an 8-member panel at Seoul National University (SNU) found no evidence to prove that Hwang had created stem cells by cloning the skin cells of patients—a feat he reported in an article published in Science last year. In a report issued in Seoul on Tuesday, the panel said that Hwang’s scientific misconduct extended back to his report from 2004 when he claimed to have created the first stem cell lines cloned from human cells. Members from the panel explained that genetic testing of those stem cells by three different labs did not match the DNA fingerprints of stem cells that Hwang discussed in his 2004 paper.

Hwang maintains that he created the history-making cells, but admits that his lab was plagued by mismanagement. He claims that the stem cells were switched or stolen. The panel found this explanation highly unlikely, and harshly chastised Hwang for damaging the scientific reputation of South Korean researchers with his actions.

But there was one aspect of Hwang’s research that was validated by the panel. Hwang’s cloned dog, Snuppy, the first of its kind, stood up to the outside testing. (Last year, TIME chose the dog-cloning research as Invention of the Year.) DNA testing of Snuppy confirmed that he is a genetic copy of Tai, the male Afghan hound whose skin cell Hwang cloned to create the cloned puppy.

The verdict on the cloned dog, however, is a small consolation for Hwang, whose discredited studies have left his scientific reputation in shambles. The fakery and flaws in his studies have undermined his contributions to cloning research and have likely caused a setback in worldwide progress in the field of stem-cell research.

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