[EDITORIALS]After the debacle

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[EDITORIALS]After the debacle

Seoul National University’s investigative committee, which is looking into the research of Professor Hwang Woo-suk’s team, announced that none of the stem cells described in the 2005 Science article were patient-specific embryonic stem cells. Even the five frozen cell lines that Dr. Hwang had been claiming he would use to prove the core technology of producing embryonic stem cells proved to be embryonic stem cells of fertilized eggs (artificially inseminated eggs) from MizMedi Hospital.
The investigative committee said that it could not find any patient-specific stem cells or data to back up assertions that such stem cells had been made.
It has become clear that Hwang Woo-suk’s 2005 article was fabricated. Now the only things that remain to be cleared up are the authenticity of Dr. Hwang’s 2004 Science article on human embryonic stem cell cloning, the cloning of Snuppy the dog and the charges that Dr. Hwang has made about a switch of the stem cells he says he produced. But the bottom line is that there are no patient-specific embryonic stem cells. The entire country was fooled by Dr. Hwang and his team.
Dr. Hwang had several opportunities to confess, but he mocked the people to the very last moment. We do not know what his reasons were, but at this moment when everything is being revealed, he probably has little to say, even if people accuse him of being a swindler with a scientist’s face.
We are ashamed and regret how we were completely deceived when we celebrated him as a scientific hero. In these wretched days, the media ― which played a major role in creating the Hwang Woo-suk craze ― should reflect upon itself. Even after charges of data fabrication in his article became a bigger issue, the media kept away from the truth and stayed a step behind.
Those people who took part in forging the paper should be dealt with by the law. Authorities should also thoroughly investigate how the research funds were used. A panel to investigate the authenticity of research must be formed, and ethical standards for ova collection must be set.
We ask the Seoul National University review panel to be stringent in the rest of its work. Only then will fraud and fabrication be unable to wield influence. The government will also have to revamp its research funding system, which is now biased towards cloning. Dr. Hwang’s team should be broken up. A new team of scientists should work on honest, ethical bioengineering.
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