by Steven Ertelt
April 11, 2006
Seoul, South Korea (LifeNews.com) — University of Pittsburgh scientist Gerald Schatten has responded to a long list of questions from South Korea prosecutors investigating the embryonic stem cell research scandal surrounding Hwang Woo-suk’s research team. Schatten, a former top partner, says he did not participate in the fraud.
Schatten left Hwang’s team in November after news reports surfaced that women were coerced into donating human eggs for research.
Hwang’s team came under international scrutiny after revelations surfaced that it did not successfully clone a human embryo and that patient-specific embryonic stem cells never existed.
Schatten, who was to head up the team’s international stem cell bank, co-wrote two papers the team submitted to the medical journal Science making the false embryonic stem cell research claims. The papers have since been retracted.
In a reply to South Korean officials, Schatten says he did not participate in the hoax and did not know different stem cells were used for the paper to replace the faked embryonic ones until the scandal received international attention.
"Professor Schatten submitted a 56-page written answer to an investigator via email. Its point was to refute allegations that he was involved in fabricating the paper," a prosecutor told the Korean Herald newspaper.
Another top Hwang colleague, Kang Sung-keun, has told government officials that he overheard Schatten tell Hwang to move forward with publishing the papers even though they were based on faked data.
Schatten responded to the allegation by saying he asked Hwang to proceed because he thought there were more frozen stem cell lines that were patient matches. The patient specific embryonic stem cells that supposedly existed all deteriorated.
After the scandal erupted, Seoul National University, where Hwang’s team was based, conducted an extensive inquiry and found that none of the patient-specific embryonic stem cells ever existed.
The revelation was a huge blow to embryonic stem cell research because it means it is still very far away from ever helping human patients because it has yet to overcome the hurdle of the immune system rejecting the foreign cells. Adult stem cells, which do not involve the destruction of human life, have already produced dozens of cures and treatments for people.
SNU said Schatten played a leading role in writing the paper.
Schatten has been accused of having stolen cloning and stem cell technologies and applied for patents for them in the United States.