Monday, May 01, 2006

Tribune-Review editorial severely criticizes UPitt over stem cells

Tribune-Review editorial on April 26, 2006:

A superstar at the University of Pittsburgh was not subjected to commonsensical oversight by his institution.

Gerald Schatten was senior author on a paper describing patient-matched stem cells created through human embryonic cloning.

The research, conducted by Hwang Woo-Suk in South Korea, later was proven an extraordinary fraud.

It is clear Pitt's standards were substandard. The Institutional Review Board took Mr. Schatten at his word that none of the women whose eggs were harvested was identifiable to the researchers. The board, it appeared, did not have jurisdiction.

But it did.

South Korean law requires that families of women who donated eggs would have priority for any resulting treatments. So the researchers must have a way of identifying the donors. Actually, Hwang drove one, a lab assistant, to the hospital for the egg extraction. She later worked in Schatten's Pitt lab.

Strict ethical oversight protects the subjects' privacy and safety. Harvesting eggs is dangerous and questions persist whether the women gave informed consent.

Schatten may have believed all was well until it became impossible to say so with a straight face. But due diligence by Pitt quite likely would have unraveled the fraud earlier -- perhaps before publication.

That was the conclusion of an investigation by the Trib. The superstars of Pitt's research factory had better get the message.


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