Panel: No data for stem cell claim
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- An expert panel from Seoul National University has dealt another blow to scientific claims by former researcher Hwang Woo-suk, saying he did not produce patient-specific stem cells as he had claimed in a landmark research paper.
"This panel couldn't find stem cells that match patients' DNA regarding the 2005 paper, and it believes that Hwang's team didn't secure scientific data to prove that," Roe Jung-hye, the university's dean of research affairs, said Thursday.
Last week, the panel said Hwang falsified results of nine of 11 stem cell lines he claimed to have created in the paper published in May in the U.S. journal Science. Within hours, Hwang said he was leaving his post with the school.
The university launched an investigation in November after ethics questions were raised. In its first report, the nine-member panel said laboratory data from 11 stem cell lines actually came from only two stem cell lines, and said it was conducting DNA tests on the two to verify whether they were patient-specific.
"After three different institutes finished analyzing DNA fingerprints from number 2 and 3 stem cell lines, it was found that the lines do not match patients' somatic cells," said Roe. The stem cells actually came from fertilized eggs, he said.
The South Korean research team led by Hwang announced in February 2004 that they had created human embryos through cloning, and extracted embryonic stem cells.
Stem cell research has been touted by scientists as a possible step toward finding cures for diseases and afflictions including Alzheimer's disease.
Hwang first came under fire in November, when he admitted his team used eggs donated from junior scientists in his laboratory, a practice frowned upon because of coercion concerns.
Later, Roh Sung-il, a hospital administrator who had worked with Hwang, said the researcher admitted fabricating the results in the journal article. Roh also accused Hwang of contaminating the stem cell lines.
The next day, a colleague said Hwang's research was false, but Hwang countered, "Our research team did produce patient-specific embryonic stem cells and we have the original technology to produce them."
In response to criticism, Hwang did admit that six stem cell lines had been contaminated and destroyed, but said he was defrosting five other stem cell lines and could validate his earlier work.
Meanwhile, Hwang said he asked the journal to withdraw the article on the study, indicating it cannot be used for future research, and the U.S. co-author asked that his name be removed.
The fallout from the scandal could impact stem-cell research as a whole, possibly requiring researchers to be more forthcoming and transparent in order to secure funding.
CNN's Sohn Jie-ae contributed to this report.
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