Seoul, South Korea — South Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk faked results of at least nine of 11 stem-cell lines he claimed to have created, a deliberate deception that has undermined the credibility of science, his university said today.
The announcement by Seoul National University of results so far in its investigation into Hwang's work were the first confirmation of allegations that have cast a shadow over his entire list of breakthroughs in cloning and stem-cell technology.
"This kind of error is a grave act that damages the foundation of science," the panel said.
In a May paper in the journal Science, Hwang claimed to have created 11 stem-cell lines matched to patients in an achievement that raised hopes of creating tailored therapies for hard-to-treat diseases. But one of his former collaborators last week said nine of the 11 cell lines were faked, prompting reviews by the journal and an expert panel at Seoul National University, where Hwang works.
The panel said today it found that "the laboratory data for 11 stem cell lines that were reported in the 2005 paper were all data made using two stem cell lines in total."
To create fake DNA results purporting to show a match, Hwang's team split cells from one patient into two test tubes for the analysis - rather than actually match cloned cells to a patient's original cells, the university said.
"Based on these facts, the data in the 2005 Science paper cannot be some error from a simple mistake, but can be but seen as a deliberate fabrication to make it look like 11 stem-cell lines using results from just two," the panel said.
The panel said DNA tests expected to be completed within a few days would confirm if the remaining two stem-cell lines it had found were successfully cloned from a patient.