Controversy Continues Over Hwang’s Embryonic Stem Cell Research Pictures

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 7, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Controversy Continues Over Hwang’s Embryonic Stem Cell Research Pictures Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 7, 2005

Seoul, South Korea ( — After a South Korean television station obtained quotes from some members of Hwang Woo-suk’s embryonic stem cell research team who said some of the results were fabricated, the medical journal Science has written to Korean journalists backing up the research.

Science wrote that when a research paper is submitted for publication, it asks researchers in the same field to perform tests and studies to verify the results. The journal said none of the scientists it asked to look at Hwang’s results have questioned their veracity.

However, the New York Times reports that Hwang’s team has notified Science that it plans to retract some of the photographs that accompanied the article on his embryonic stem cell research because the wrong photographs were used.

Apparently some of the photos of embryonic cell colonies supposedly derived from 11 patients may be duplicates. They cited a clerical mix-up and promised to submit the correct pictures.

"How ironic," responded Family Research Council president Tony Perkins at the errors. "Unethical scientific research has spawned unethical conduct."

Science claims it was former Hwang associate Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh who sent the wrong images. Schatten resigned weeks ago when Hwang’s lying about egg donations from junior researchers came to light.

But a Schatten spokesman told The Korean Herald newspaper, "Schatten’s lab copied a CD of Hwang’s photos, and one question is whether that copying process accidentally produced duplicates."

Hwang contacted Science on Monday to say that "we made some unintentional error by using about four pictures redundantly" in the May 2005 research paper Science published, the journal said in a statement Tuesday night.

Donald Kennedy, editor-in-chief of Science, said, "There is no reason to believe at the moment that it is a problem that affects the scientific outcome of the paper."

Earlier, the South Korean television station MBC obtained quotes from Hwang associates saying some of patient-tailored stem cells the team said it extracted might not be genuine. Though it stands by the report, MBC has apologized for too aggressively asking the scientists to comment on the matter.