Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Retraction of paper authored by colleagues of Hwang

A paper authored by co-workers of Woo Suk Hwang has been retracted by the journal Stem Cells; this is the first retraction in the history of this journal:

The journal Stem Cells, published in Durham, NC by AlphaMed Press, said it was its first retraction of research it has published in its 24-year history.

The journal published an article in 2004 co-authored by former University of Pittsburgh researchers Kim Sun-jong and Park Jong-hyuk and seven other South Korean researchers discussing the environment under which the team enhanced the cloning of stem cells.

Sun-jong and Jong-hyuk have since left the University of Pittsburgh. They were associates of another Pitt researcher, Dr. Gerald Schatten, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday. Schatten was the senior author of a 2005 paper in the journal Science that was retracted after it was found that South Korean cloning scientist Hwang Woo-suk had fabricated data in it.

This evidence of a false paper, not authored by Hwang himself (suggesting bad acts APART from those of Hwang) is consistent with a report on April 3, 2006 from
the Korea Times:

Prosecutors have tentatively concluded that Kim Sun-jong, co-researcher of disgraced cloning expert Hwang Woo-suk, fabricated samples of stem cell lines without Hwang's knowledge, KBS TV reported Monday.

The state-run broadcaster said in its primetime 9 O'clock news that the prosecution secured Kim's testimony that he had manipulated stem cell lines by himself.

The involvement of Kim Sun-jong brings the fraud closer to the University of Pittsburgh.

According to Reuters, a November 2004 paper in Stem Cells has been retracted. Co-workers of Hwang, but not Hwang himself, authored the paper. Some of the text accompanying the retraction is revealing:

"We are not saying it is fraudulent. We are saying it cannot be believed," Dr. Martin Murphy, the journal's executive editor, said in a telephone interview.

Murphy said photographs used to support the paper's contentions were all shots of a single human embryonic stem cell, rather than a series of different cells grown under different conditions, as claimed. Some were also used to support a paper in the journal Science that was shown to have been a fraud.

"It advanced significantly the culture conditions in which human embryonic stem cells could be cloned. It was a significant advance and therefore published and featured by the journal," Murphy said.

"They were photographs of identical clones. It was missed by everybody -- not only the three reviewers and the editors." IPBiz note: what Murphy is meaning by "everybody" is that the scientific peers who read the paper said nothing.

[Hwang's] papers appeared to have taken a large first step toward fulfilling the promise of stem cell research -- making tailor-made tissue transplants and perfect matches to study and treat a range of diseases from cancer to spinal cord injuries.

The following text is interesting in that it implies that scientific peers have a responsibility to report negative results:

Murphy hopes people who may have tried to repeat the Korean team's work will come forward.

"If people were saying, 'we tried that for three months and by God we couldn't get it to work' ... now we expect to hear from them," Murphy said.


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