Hwang Woo-suk Questioned on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Fraud

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 2, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Hwang Woo-suk Questioned on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Fraud

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 2, 2006

Seoul, South Korea (LifeNews.com) — Disgraced scientist reported to a South Korean prosecutor’s office on Thursday to answer questions from government officials about his faked embryonic stem cell research and whether he embezzled millions in public and private funds meant for the studies.

This was the first time Hwang has appeared in public in almost two months.

It also the first time authorities have questioned him about his team’s research since Seoul National University determined that all of the embryonic stem cell research the team conducted was faked.

Hwang was described as "tight-lipped and tense" according to media reports and refused to answer reporters’ questions.

Top Hwang associate Kim Seon-jong will also be questioned today. Hwang accuses him of sabotaging the research and Kim accuses Hwang of forcing him to falsify the research for two internationally heralded papers.

Authorities have questioned most of the people involved in Hwang’s team who would have information about the money and his fabricated research.

State auditors last month said that Hwang’s team failed to account for about $6.5 million ion public and private research dollars. Hwang may have embezzled as much as $2.57 million of the funds and made numerous transfers of research money into personal accounts.

Hwang has claimed other members of his team faked the research by substituting other embryonic stem cells with the patient-specific ones he claims were created.

However, probes by Seoul National University and the government have said the supposed embryonic stem cells never existed.

Their analysis is a huge setback for embryonic stem cell research because it means the controversial science still has to overcome patient rejection issues before it can come close to ever helping any patients.

While embryonic stem cells have yet to cure any patients, adult stem cell research has derived dozens of treatments for various diseases and conditions.

The prosecutors will also question Hwang about his collaborations with Gerald Schatten, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Hanyang University Professor Yoon Hyun-soo and Lee Yang-han, research head at the National Institute of Scientific Investigation are also being questioned today.

Hwang and his associates were stripped of their teaching positions at SNU and are prevented from conducting stem cell research there.

The medical journal Science has revoked the two papers.