Korean cloning studies were fakesBMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7533.67-a (Published 12 January 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:67
The Korean stem cell research team led by Hwang Woo-suk faked the results of two landmark papers published in Science in 2004 and 2005, an investigation committee at Seoul National University has found. However, the committee found that the team did produce the world's first cloned dog, Snuppy.
The committee initially reported on 23 December that the data in Professor Hwang's landmark paper on embryonic stem cell lines derived from somatic cell nuclear transfer (Science 2005;308: 1777-83) was entirely fabricated, that only two of the reported 11 embryonic stem lines existed, and that they were derived from in vitro fertilised eggs and were not a result of somatic cell nuclear transfer.
The committee's final report, published on Tuesday, added: “The stem cells that Professor Hwang claims to have created subsequent to the 2005 publication also turned out to have originated from frozen fertilised eggs and not from cloned blastocysts.” Professor Hwang resigned from his post as professor of the college of veterinary medicine at Seoul National University on the day the interim report came out.
The investigating committee expanded the scope of its work to include two other papers, one on embryonic stem cell lines derived from a cloned blastocyst, which was published in Science (2004;303: 1669-74), and one on the cloning of an Afghan hound nicknamed Snuppy, published in Nature (2005;436: 641). “Hwang's team did not have the data for the 2004 paper but fabricated it,” Chung Myung-hee, the head of the investigating panel, said.
The report also concluded that in each of the Science articles Professor Hwang lied about the number of eggs used. It stated: “The exact counting for the number of eggs used for each of the Science articles is impossible as the initiation date for each project is uncertain and laboratory recording is not thorough. However, while the 2005 article claims to have used 185 eggs, laboratory notes indicated that at least 273 eggs had been used from 17 September 2004 to 7 February 2005.”
The committee also said that Professor Hwang had lied when he said he had no knowledge of his staff donating eggs, as he had accompanied a graduate student to MizMedi Hospital in Seoul where she underwent egg aspiration in March 2003.
However, the committee did conclude that DNA fingerprinting analyses of the cloned dog Snuppy (BMJ 2005;331: 366) confirmed that it was cloned by Professor Hwang and his team.
The investigating committee's report is available at www.snu.ac.kr.