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SNU Begins Stem Cell Investigation

Posted December. 19, 2005 03:04,   


The Investigation Committee of Seoul National University (SNU), which will try to verify SNU Professor Hwang Woo-suk and his research team`s paper published in Science magazine, began its investigation in earnest on December 18.

Chairman Chung Myung-hee and nine members of the Committee interviewed some 20 researchers, including professors Hwang Woo-suk, Lee Byung-cheon, and Kang Sung-geun in the conference room of the SNU College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at around 10:00 a.m. on that day.

The Investigation Committee, whose initial plan was to make preliminary investigations first and start main investigations later, changed course and decided, after two days of conferences and preparations, to hold preliminary and main investigations at the same time on December 16 and 17.

Regarding the issue, one university official said, "We decided that preliminary investigations are unnecessary, because Hwang and Administrator Roh Sung-il of MizMedi Hospital have made different statements, and Hwang already admitted manipulating the paper. It is a matter of pace, as we have already clarified the investigations will be intensive."

First, the Investigation Committee will investigate the suspicions regarding overlapping data photos and DNA fingerprints in the supplementary documents of the 2005 paper in Science. To this end, it will receive experiment notes and data from Hwang`s team, analyze the data, and listen to explanations from the researchers.

After that, the committee will conduct DNA fingerprint examinations on five stem cells, which Hwang said were frozen at an early stage, and which have currently been thawed and cultivated for re-verification.

Meanwhile, Vice Spokesperson Choi In-ho of Cheong Wa Dae announced that Presidential Advisor of Information, Science and Technology Park Ki-young said on December 17, "I was told by Hwang in January of last year that the embryonic stem cells within the SNU lab were contaminated, but I did not report the fact to President Roh Moo-hyun."

He added, "Contamination sometimes happens during cell cultivation experiments, but it was such a pity that the contaminated cells died. I cooperated with the research team in finding an alternative (lab) until SNU`s biotech research building was completed, and later, Hwang found an alternative place for experiments."

Given that Park reported last month to President Roh in detail how MBC`s "PD Diary" team investigated into the case, however, there is controversy over whether it is true that Park did not report such a grave issue as stem cell contamination to President Roh.

Se-Jin Jung mint4a@donga.com jyw11@donga.com