Monday, January 16, 2006

Emails of Kim Sun-jong don't mention stem cell lines

Investigation of the emails of Kim Sun-jong shows no discussion of the generation of stem cell lines. Korean prosecutors think that if Kim had been successful in growing stem cells, he would have told others about the outcome. This absence points the finger at Hwang.


It was discovered on January 16, 2006 that Kim Sun-jong, a former junior researcher at MizMedi Hospital, did not mention the “successful creation of stem cell lines (cloned cells of donors’ body cells)” in the e-mails he has written since 2004. Kim is known to be deeply involved in the scandal of fabricating the data used in Dr. Hwang Woo-suk’s paper published in Science in 2005.

The special investigation team at the Seoul District Public Prosecutors’ Office seized about 50,000 e-mails of 33 persons involved in the stem cell fraud. It is reported that the investigators finished examining the e-mails of Kim Sun-jong, who was in charge of growing stem cells, last weekend. More probes into the e-mails will follow.

from Richard Gallagher on The Scientist:

Today’s science fraud revelation is that a study published in The Lancet, purportedly demonstrating that common painkillers could protect against oral cancer, was pure fiction.

The response of The Lancet Editor Richard Horton, as quoted by the BBC ? The peer-review process is good at picking up poorly designed studies, but it is not designed to pick up fabricated research. Just as in society you cannot always prevent crime, in science you cannot always prevent fabrication.

Hmmm. According to The Norwegian daily newspaper Dagbladet, 250 of the 908 people in Sudbo's study shared the same birthday. If journals can’t pick that kind of thing up, either by internal review or peer review, doubts about science's self-policing systems are well-founded.

Horton mirrors the fatalism of Donald Kennedy, Editor of Science, in the wake of the Hwang debacle: The public needs to understand that the journals and peer review are not perfect, he said. That’s first entry in understatement of the year. But what is he doing about it? The modest but worthwhile proposal from Science is that authors will need to state their specific contributions.

It’s nowhere near enough. Journals need to take a lead in combating fraud, yet Editors are distancing themselves from the issue. An exception is Journal of Cell Biology , which screens accepted manuscripts for evidence of image manipulation, in collaboration with a mathematician who is a specialist in art fraud.

Why aren’t other journals doing this? And why isn’t the dragnet being widened to include a search of data for the telltale signatures of counterfeiting?

That's what is needed. Right now, I’d settle for an acknowledgement from Editors that (a) there’s a problem, (b) they are going to do something about it.


from Reuters:

The Board of Audit and Inspection said on Monday, Jan. 16, 2006, it would investigate the use of state money for the research.

Hwang's team received 41.7 billion won ($42.2 million) in government funds and 4.3 billion won in private money from 1995 to 2005, the board said in a statement. Fraudulently obtaining state funds can be punished by up to 10 years in jail.

Hwang admitted to fraud in his papers at a news conference last week but said he was the victim of a conspiracy to discredit him, adding he had the technology to prove his team's claims.

He charged the Seoul hospital that supplied the eggs with being behind the conspiracy.

Last week, prosecutors raided more than 30 places associated with the research, including Hwang's home and lab. They have also banned about 30 people involved in the research from traveling overseas, including Hwang.

Hwang had once been a hero in South Korea and last year the government awarded him the title of the country's first "supreme scientist."

The government has stripped him of that title. Hwang resigned from Seoul National University and could face a prison sentence if is found to have misappropriated state funds, prosecutors have said.

Last week, the U.S. periodical Science which published the debunked papers from Hwang's team said it would retract the team's 2004 article on producing the first cloned human embryos for research and a 2005 paper on producing tailored embryonic stem cells.

Hwang's stem-cell research had raised hope for those suffering from debilitating and deadly diseases because it seemed to hasten the day when genetically specific tissue could be grown to help repair damaged bodies and cure ailments such as severe spinal cord injuries and Parkinson's disease.

($1=987.3 Won)

[IPBiz post 1151]


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