Partner: Hwang Reluctant to Admit Embryonic Stem Cell Research Coverup

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 15, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Partner: Hwang Reluctant to Admit Embryonic Stem Cell Research Coverup Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 15, 2005

Seoul, South Korea ( — A leading partner on Hwang Woo-suk’s embryonic stem cell research team admitted Thursday that the team fabricated most of the information found in a paper it published in a leading medical journal. The partner also says Hwang told him not to be "rash" about divulging the information.

Roh Sung-il, a co-author of the paper, told South Korean media networks that "Professor Hwang admitted to fabrication" and added that he, Hwang and another member of the research team have asked Science to withdraw the paper.

"I agreed with Hwang to ask for it (the paper) to be withdrawn," Roh told KBS television.

The paper highlighted the supposed creation of 11 patient-specific embryonic stem cell lines that were designed to overcome the body’s immune system, which normally rejects the controversial cells. But Roh admitted nine of the eleven were falsified and the authenticity of the other two is questionable.

However, it appears Hwang may not have been ready to go public with the admission that the research was faked.

Roh told KBS television in South Korea that Hwang told him "to refrain from rash actions" since Seoul National University was investigating the matter. Hwang said, “We are checking now" about whether the other two embryonic stem cell lines exist.

“If Hwang says he ‘has to check’ whether the two surviving cells are in fact frozen embryonic cells stored at MizMedi Hospital or not, then I seriously doubt the existence of the cloned stem cells,” Roh said, according to the ChoSun newspaper.

Roh said Hwang appeared to implicitly confirm claims from scientists that both the pictures and DNA fingerprints were fabricated, ChoSun reported.

“I now think the pictures and the DNA are fake too,” he said.

"I have waited, thinking that Hwang would announce everything himself since only he is eligible to put a halt to all the suspicions,’’ Roh said.

"But I decided to go public because Hwang today made comments totally contrary to what we have believed is right. I need to clear away people’s suspicion and anguish," he said.

An official at Science told Reuters that they have not officially heard from Hwang’s team to withdraw the paper. "We cannot yet confirm these media reports," she said.

Members of Hwang’s team plan to hold a press conference Friday, but it’s not known whether Hwang will attend. He has been hospitalized for stress following his admission he lied about egg donations from junior researchers.