Wednesday, January 04, 2006

On Jan. 4, Science announces it will retract 2005 Hwang paper in Science

On January 4, 2006, Reuters reported that the journal Science will retract a paper written by disgraced Korean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk and colleagues, accused of faking part of a study on tailored embryonic stem cells, with the retraction announcement coming about one month after Science announced that the only problem was a misunderstanding about photographs.

Reuters also stated:
The prestigious journal said it had received permission from everyone named on the May 19, 2005, research paper to make the unusual move.

"To ensure that the wording of the retraction reflects the final conclusions of the Seoul National University (SNU) investigation, Science will finalize the retraction text and proceed with the final steps of the retraction process only after the SNU investigation is completed next week," the journal said in a statement.

"Science hopes this approach will yield a retraction that will convey accurately as much information as possible to the scientific community."

The scandal surrounding the Hwang team's paper has steadily built, with the team gradually admitting to a series of mistakes. They have been accused of outright fabrications and ethical missteps.

Science is one of the leading peer-reviewed journals and prides itself on subjecting research papers to scrutiny by other experts in the relevant fields. A retraction is rare because usually research is carefully checked before publication. [The Reuters report does not mention the retraction in 2002 by both Science and Nature of fraudulent papers by Jan-Hendrik Schon.]

Hwang's work won credence because of the backing of the journal and it gained further weight when a leading U.S. stem cell expert, Dr. Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, lent his name to it.

Hwang was the first scientist to publish a paper showing, in 2004, that his team had actually cloned a human cell to provide a source of embryonic stem cells -- master cells that can provide a source of any type of tissue or cell in the body.


He followed this up with what appeared to be the first proof of the promise of so-called therapeutic cloning -- the creation of 11 separate batches or lines of stem cells taken from actual patients.

The idea is to eventually make tailored stem cells, cloned from patients, for medical study and perhaps to provide transplants for treating a range of conditions from juvenile diabetes to damaged spinal cords [an IND for the latter may be submitted by Geron.]

Reuters also notes: Scientific papers are meant to be written in such a way that other researchers can try to repeat the findings themselves, and are supposed to supply evidence that can be checked. Reuters does not mention that no one ever repeated the work claimed within the 2005 paper by Hwang in Science.

story by Maggie Fox, Journal to retract Korean stem cell paper
(Jan. 4., 2006). Available at

Bloomberg also reported the retraction, and further indicated that questions had been raised about the accuracy of the 2004 paper (as distinct from the 2005 paper) in Science:

Hwang's 2004 paper in Science described cloning stem cells from DNA transplanted into a woman's egg. Science's editors still have strong concerns about that paper, said Ginger Pinholster, a spokeswoman for the journal, in a telephone interview.

`That Bridge Next'

``They're going to cross that bridge next,'' Science's Pinholster said.

At least one researcher, Robert Lanza, vice president of scientific development at Advanced Cell Technology Inc. in Worcester, Massachusetts, said he asked after the 2004 paper was published that Hwang give samples to another lab to verify. He didn't get a response.

Hwang and 24 co-authors said in the May, 2005 paper that they completed the first transplant of DNA from patients' skin cells into the egg cells of unrelated donors. The process, they said, created stem cells that might be grown into healthy tissue to replace those of people with diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and other disorders.

Coincidentally, the miscommunication about the survivors in the West Virginia mine exposion also happened on January 4, 2006.

IPBiz Post 1115


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