SEOUL, South Korea
South Korea’s top university has asked for an interview with an American researcher as it investigates scientist Hwang Woo-suk’s purported breakthroughs in cloning, the school said this week.
Seoul National University said last week that Hwang did not create any of the 11 stem cell lines tailored to individual patients as claimed in a paper published in May in the prestigious journal Science.
The nine-member university panel investigating the controversy said it has officially requested an interview with Dr. Gerald Schatten, a University of Pittsburgh researcher who co-authored the paper, to carry out an “accurate investigation.”
The nine-member panel also plans to interview Park Jong-hyuk, another co-author of the 2005 paper.
Park is now also at the University of Pittsburgh.
“We have yet to receive responses, but expect both to agree,” the university said in a statement. “It looks like the interviews would be conducted either through video conferencing or by phone.”
The U.S. university is also investigating Schatten’s role in Hwang’s article on patient-specific stem cells. The paper listed Schatten as “senior author,” but also described him as a consultant who did little, if any, actual research.
Schatten announced in November he will no longer collaborate with Hwang because junior researchers at the Seoul lab where they did research had donated their own eggs for the study — a violation of common science ethics.
Hwang has publicly apologized for lying about the egg donations. Last month, he resigned as a professor at Seoul National University after the investigating panel concluded he deliberately faked at least nine of the 11 stem cell lines.
The panel later confirmed the two remaining stem cell lines were also fake.
Scientists hope to someday use stem cells — master cells that can grow into any body tissue — to treat ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.
Creating stem cells genetically matched to a specific patient would be a major breakthrough, because they would less likely to be rejected by patients’ immune systems.
Seoul National University is expected next week to release the final results of its investigations, including those into Hwang’s earlier purported breakthroughs, including the world’s first cloned dog.
— Associated Press
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