- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 31, 2005

SEOUL — Disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk insisted he has the technology to produce embryonic stem cells matched to individual patients and that investigators must have tested fake clone cells that had been “switched” for the real thing.

A university panel said Thursday that Mr. Hwang did not produce any patient-specific stem-cell lines as claimed in a paper published in May in the journal Science, dealing a shattering blow to the scientist once hailed as a medical pioneer.

Mr. Hwang stood by his work.

“It’s certain [stem cells] have been switched,” Mr. Hwang was quoted as saying yesterday, claiming the replacement took place “under a detailed plan over quite a long period of time.”

Mr. Hwang made his remarks in an interview with Beopbo, a South Korean Buddhist newspaper.

“Once an investigation starts, it will take about a couple of days to bring to light the truth,” Mr. Hwang said.

He also said the technology he had developed was sound.

“I definitely have the source technology to produce tailored embryonic stem cells,” Mr. Hwang was quoted as saying.

Scientists hope to someday use stem cells — master cells that can grow into any body tissue — to cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

Creating stem cells genetically matched to a specific patient would be a breakthrough because they would not be rejected by the patient’s immune systems.

Mr. Hwang was last seen in public more than a week ago when he resigned as professor at Seoul National University following the school’s initial report that his team had deliberately fabricated data in the May paper to make it look as if they had created 11 colonies of human embryonic stem cells genetically matched to specific patients.

The university panel concluded Mr. Hwang faked the research on nine of the stem-cell lines. It later confirmed the two remaining stem-cell lines were also fabricated but it wasn’t clear whether they were faked by Mr. Hwang or scientists at Seoul’s Mizmedi Hospital which collaborated with his research team.

Mr. Hwang has filed a complaint with prosecutors that some of the stem-cell lines his team created were replaced by those made at Mizmedi.

Mizmedi Hospital has denied switching the stem-cell colonies.

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