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SNU Panel Hears Testimony from Hwang

Posted December. 22, 2005 03:02,   


The Seoul National University investigation committee that is currently verifying cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk’s research results summoned MizMedi Hospital Chief Roh Sung-Il, a co-author of the controversial 2005 paper published in Science magazine, Moon Shin-yong, a professor at SNU Medical College, and Han Hak-soo from the MBC show PD Notebook yesterday for questioning.

The panel reportedly grilled Roh about the controversy over Hwang’s patient-specific stem cells being replaced with stem cells from MizMedi Hospital, how he provided Hwang’s team with egg cells and the specific time period of the controversial events. On top of that, the panel reportedly brought Hwang face to face with Roh in an attempt to get to the bottom of the storm of this national controversy.

The panel appears to have a grasp of whether patient-tailored stem cells really exist as Hwang claims and the authenticity of Hwang’s controversial paper after investigating key figures involved in Hwang’s research results, including a four-hour probe into Yoon Hyeon-su, a professor at the Medical College of Hanyang University, on December 20.

The panel decided to commission three outside expert institutes to analyze DNA fingerprints as soon as it finalizes the extraction of samples from stem cells currently being cultivated by Hwang’s team.

“We asked an official with the National Institute of Scientific Investigation’s branch in Jangseong County, South Jeolla Province, who conducted DNA fingerprint analysis for Hwang’s team in 2005, to have an interview with us, and also asked Hanyang University to arrange interviews with professors related to Hwang’s research results,” said the panel.

After arriving at the Veterinary College of SNU around 9:45 a.m. yesterday, Hwang was grilled by the panel again.

The committee put off its interim probe announcement scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on December 22 to 11:00 a.m. on December 23.

In the aftermath of this controversy, it was confirmed yesterday that foreign-based scientific journals, including Nature and Science, have launched verification processes of all Hwang’s team’s papers published in them.

Last week, Nature asked Lee Byeong-cheon, a professor at the Veterinary College of SNU, to send cloned dog Snuppy’s mitochondria DNA and its father dog’s mitochondria DNA once the SNU fact-finding committee confirms them.

In response, SNU professor Kim Min-gyu, who took part in the Snuppy research project, said, “I will send all kinds of material pertaining to Snuppy’s research to Nature in order to be confirmed. I am full of confidence in verifying it.”

When University of Pittsburgh Professor Gerald Schatten, a co-author of the paper, asked Hwang’s team to send Snuppy’s mitochondria DNA materials around June, Hwang’s team did not send them.

In addition, Science announced officially on December 20 that it was probing into the authenticity of one of Hwang’s papers published in its journal in 2004 in which Hwang claimed that he succeeded in establishing human embryonic stem cells for the first time in the world.

Meanwhile, the University of Pittsburgh said, “Schatten asked Hwang’s team to send $200,000 under the pretext of research expenses on projects this September, but he was not actually paid by Hwang’s team.”

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