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South Korean Stem Cell Scientist Requests Retraction

Editors at Science said Friday they would retract the article published in May once all the study’s authors agree to the retraction.

Woo Suk Hwang of Seoul National University apologized for the controversy surrounding the study, which had gained international acclaim for advancing efforts toward using therapeutic cloning for treating illnesses such as diabetes and Parkinson’s.

On Thursday, a South Korean television station reported that a co-author of the paper said Hwang had pressured a former scientist at his lab to fake data for the report. Nine of the 11 stem cell lines were faked and the authenticity of the other two was unknown, the co-author said, according to the Associated Press.

Hwang told a news conference he would like more time to confirm the validity of the technology used to create the patient-specific embryonic stem cells. He said some of the cells he created had since died due to contamination but that other cells were being unfrozen and would help prove the veracity of his work.

Earlier in the week, Dr. Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh, who had lent his name and credibility to the work conducted in South Korea, asked that his name be removed from the human cloning study.

“My careful re-evaluations of published figures and tables, along with new problematic information, now casts substantial doubts about the paper’s accuracy,” Schatten said in a letter to Science, reported Reuters.

Science editor-in-chief, Donald Kennedy, Ph.D., said the journal could not remove his name since no such mechanism was in place.

The South Korean government had said a scientific review of Hwang’s work must be conducted. Following an emergency meeting chaired by South Korean Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan, the government said it would wait for an internal probe by Seoul National University, reported the AP.

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