Nature Issues Corrections on Misleading Embryonic Stem Cell Research Study

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 31, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Nature Issues Corrections on Misleading Embryonic Stem Cell Research Study Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 31
, 2006

Washington, DC ( — A leading medical journal has issued two "corrections" regarding misleading news releases concerning a study conducted by a biotech firm claiming to have created a morally acceptable method of obtaining embryonic stem cells. Though Advanced Cell Technology said no human embryos were destroyed, in fact all were killed.

A press release from ACT and a statement from Nature on the article it published about the new method both said no human embryos were destroyed.

Ruth Francis, Nature’s senior press officer, explained the need for the corrections in an email to media outlets.

"We feel it necessary to explain that … the embryos that were used for these experiments did not remain intact," she said.

Later, Francis would not tell the Philadelphia Inquirer why Nature didn’t make that clear in its initial press statement about the ACT paper.

"We are looking into the possibility of further clarification of this paper," she told the newspaper.

During an interview with the Inquirer before the controversy erupted about the false claims, Advanced Cell Technology vice president Robert Lanza, senior author of the research paper, told the newspaper that "some of the embryos survived and were returned to frozen storage."

On Wednesday, in a follow-up interview with the newspaper, he said he was referring to human embryos used in similar experiments, but not the ones touted in the Nature article he wrote.

This is the second time a medical publication has come under fire for publishing false or misleading papers.

Earlier, Science published two article from a South Korean research team led by Hwang Woo-Suk. The scientists claimed to have cloned human embryos and made some patient-specific embryonic stem cells that could overcome rejection issues when injected into a patient.

Neither claim was true and Science eventually retracted both articles and said it would impose a more rigorous verification process before publishing scientific research.

ACT has also come under fire for publishing the misleading study at a time when it’s stock had been plummeting in value. The stock had been dropping steadily for more than a year and, hours after it submitted its press release about the nature paper, the stock’s value rose several times what it was initially worth.

As of Wednesday, the stock is down to about 78 cents a share, which is about twice as high as the 40 cents a share it traded at before the announcement.

Lanza refused to talk about this with the Philadelphia newspaper.

"To be truthful, I’m so deeply involved in the scientific side,” Lanza said, "you’d have to talk to the business end.”