Schatten Letter Says Hwang’s Stem Cell Research Possibly Fabricated

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 14, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Schatten Letter Says Hwang’s Stem Cell Research Possibly Fabricated Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 14, 2005

Pittsburgh, PA ( — A letter sent from University of Pittsburgh researcher Gerald Schatten to the medical journal Science demanding that it remove his name from a paper he co-authored with South Korea scientist Hwang Woo-suk says his team’s stem cell research report may have been fabricated.

"My careful re-evaluations of published figures and tables, along with new problematic information, now casts substantial doubts about the paper’s accuracy," Schatten wrote in the letter, released yesterday by Pitt.

"Over the weekend, I received allegations from someone involved with the experiments that certain elements of the report may be fabricated," Schatten added.

The paper covered research Hwang’s team conducted supposedly showing it was able to clone patient-specific embryonic stem cells. Such a success could possibly overcome one hurdle that has prevented the controversial cells from ever curing a patient — rejection by the patient’s immune system.

Schatten’s letter and his stepping down as Hwang’s partner weeks ago has cast a dark cloud of doubt over both Hwang’s human cloning efforts and embryonic stem cell research.

Rudolf Jaenisch, a leading stem cell scientist at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Massachusetts told AP about the various developments, "It’s a very serious step. It’s not good."

While scientists supported Hwang in droves before he admitted he lied about egg donations form two female junior researchers, they are now calling for independent verification of his embryonic stem cell claims.

Jaenisch told the Associated Press that public skepticism is growing because of serious doubts about his work.

According to AP, Schatten can’t remove his name from the paper, on which he is one of 25 scientists who appear.

"No single author, having declared at the time of submission his full and complete confidence in the contents of the paper, can retract his name unilaterally, after publication," Science said in a statement.

Both Pitt and Seoul National University, where Hwang is a veterinary professor, are looking into the problems, which also include using duplicate photos of stem cells as proof patient-specific stem cells had been cloned.

Hwang’s team admit they accidentally sent the same photos, but they say the research is sound. Now, criticism say they’re concerned Hwang’s team used cells from the same person instead of extracting them from different human embryos.

Ian Wilmut, the man who cloned Dolly the sheep in 1998, submitted an open statement Tuesday with seven other scientists asking Hwang to submit his research to others for analysis.