by Steven Ertelt
March 7, 2006
Seoul, South Korea (LifeNews.com) — Disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk has admitted he played a role in the fabrication of embryonic stem cell research his team conducted that gave patients false hopes the controversial research was actually making progress. Hwang admitted his part during his fifth day of questioning from government prosecutors.
Hwang admitted telling a fellow researcher to fake data for publication of a second paper in the medical journal Science that won his team international acclaim for supposedly creating patient-specific embryonic stem cells.
"Hwang was admitting that he directed Kwon Dae-kee, a senior researcher at his laboratory, to manipulate samples for DNA testing of stem cell lines numbers 4-11 in connection with Hwang’s 2005 paper," an unidentified South Korean official told the Yonhap news agency.
"Hwang admitted that he ordered his junior researchers to ‘inflate’ the article," Lee In-gyu, a senior prosecutor added in an interview with the JoongAng Daily newspaper. "We could seek to prosecute him for disrupting other people’s work, but we don’t know in detail exactly whose work he disrupted."
In the paper, Hwang’s team said it had created embryonic stem cells tailored to individual patients that would overcome immune system rejection issues — a key problem preventing embryonic stem cell research from helping patients.
That claim turned out to be false and both Seoul National University and the South Korean government have conducted investigations that have concluded the tailored cells never existed.
Hwang’s team simply used the same data for a normal embryonic stem cell to make it appear that had cloned new ones with the same characteristics.
Hwang claims the cells existed and has accused Kim Sun-jong, the head of a local hospital and leading research partner, of switching the cells. Kim, who, in another scandal involving the team, paid women to donate their eggs for research, denies he did this and was one of the first to expose Hwang and the fraud his team perpetrated.
According to prosecutors, Hwang still insists that data in a 2004 paper was not falsified. That publication claimed Hwang’s team successfully cloned a human embryo for the first time.
Prosecutors have called Hwang and other researchers and top associates in for questioning because they’re concerned that he and his team embezzled both public and private funds intended for research.
They say Hwang put some of the $36 million he was given into personal bank accounts, gave some of the money to politicians and can’t account for $6.4 million of the funds.