South Korea Govt Continues Probing Faked Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 16, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Korea Govt Continues Probing Faked Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 16, 2006

Seoul, South Korea ( — The South Korean government is stepping up its probe into the faked embryonic stem cell research conducted by Hwang Woo-suk’s research team. Prosecutors on Monday continued interviewing members of the team and media reports indicate seven more members were questioned.

"The people summoned today are assistant researchers who can objectively explain the research process and individual roles of the researchers. We are investigating the basics this week," Park Han-cheol, deputy prosecutor at the Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office, told the Korean Herald newspaper.

The government is gathering information to determine if Hwang or any of his associates should face criminal charges from the scandal.

Hwang and his team has been accused of misusing government funds and Hwang has been accused of trying to pay off a fellow researcher who was one of the first to expose the scandal.

The scientist received 41.7 billion won (42 million dollars) in state research grants up to last year. Another 4.3 billion won came from private backers.

The government probe has included Hwang’s lab as well as the homes of many researchers and some 30 people have been involved thus far.

The members of the research team have been prohibited from leaving the country while the investigation proceeds.

A probe conducted by Seoul National University, where Hwang was a veterinary professor and the base for his team, found that all of the team’s embryonic stem cell research was fabricated.

Hwang’s team claimed to have cloned human embryos and cloned patient-specific embryonic stem cells that would overcome the immune system rejection issues that have prevented embryonic stem cell research from treating any patients. Both claims were false.

Last Thursday, Hwang apologized for his actions but continued to claim that another researcher replaced cloned embryonic stem cells in his lab with stem cells from a local hospital.