- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

From combined dispatches

SEOUL — Snuppy, purported to be the world’s first cloned dog, could well be the real thing even as more claims of cloning breakthroughs by scientist Hwang Woo-suk were judged fraudulent yesterday.

South Korea’s top university said that all the human stem cells that Dr. Hwang said were cloned from people were fake.

The conclusion continued the erosion of Dr. Hwang’s once-vaunted reputation as a leader in the field of cloning who held the key to breakthroughs for difficult-to-treat diseases.

A panel from Seoul National University investigating Dr. Hwang’s work said last week that at least nine of the 11 patient-specific stem-cell lines reported this year in the journal Science had been fabricated. The panel said yesterday that the remaining two also had been faked.

“The panel couldn’t find stem cells that match patients’ DNA regarding the 2005 paper, and it believes that Hwang’s team doesn’t have scientific data to prove that [such stem cells] were made,” Roe Jung-hye, the university’s dean of research affairs, told reporters.

Dr. Hwang did receive a bit of good news when a DNA laboratory in Seoul, which is not part of the panel’s investigation, said its tests indicated that the Afghan hound named Snuppy was an actual clone.

Creating human stem cells from a patient would be a breakthrough because they would not be rejected by that patient’s immune system. Scientists hope to someday use such cells to cure Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and paralysis.

“The bottom line is that [the scandal is] a major disaster to our whole field because the expectations were so high and now we are back to square one,” said Joseph Itskovitz, a stem-cell researcher and director of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel.

Dr. Hwang’s whereabouts were not known, and he could not be reached for comment yesterday. A mobile phone number he gave to reporters has been changed.

Dr. Hwang, 53, bolted to international fame last year when he published a paper in Science magazine saying he had created the world’s first cloned human embryo and extracted stem cells from it.

This year, he and his research team published a report in the journal Nature saying they had produced the world’s first cloned dog, Snuppy.

Those breakthroughs catapulted the veterinarian, dubbed “the Pride of Korea,” into a national hero. The government responded with pledges of massive financial support.

Last Friday, after the university’s disclosure that at least nine stem-cell lines were faked, Dr. Hwang apologized for the fabrication and stepped down as a professor at the university.



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