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Cloning scientist: Forgive me

by Sohn Jie-ae, CNN, January 12, 2006

Seoul university issues apology after panel findings

SEOUL, South Korea -- Disgraced South Korean cloning scientist Hwang Woo-suk has apologized for publishing fake research on human stem cells, but said he was deceived by researchers at another lab.

<< Hwang Woo-Suk, one of the most prominent Buddhist scientist in recent times, apologizes for the use of fake data

In his first public appearance in almost three weeks, Hwang apologized on Thursday to the government and people of South Korea as well as to those whose hopes for treatment had been raised by the research.

"I ask for your forgiveness," Hwang told a nationally televised press conference in Seoul. "I feel so miserable that it's difficult even to say sorry."

Hwang resigned last December after colleagues accused him of deliberately fabricating data in his cloning research.

Seoul National University, where Hwang is a professor, on Tuesday said in a final report that Hwang faked claims of cloning human embryonic stem cells in two landmark papers.

In a 2004 article in the journal Science, Hwang's team said they had cloned the first human embryos for research, while in another paper in May 2005 they claimed to have produced the first embryonic tailored stem cells.

"The use of fake data ... is what I have to take full responsibility for as first author. I acknowledge all of that and apologize once again," Hwang said.

The studies had attracted widespread attention and enthusiasm from researchers and patients around the world.

Using stem cells, doctors one day hope to tailor medicine to individuals, even growing replacement organs, in a bid to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's.
From hero to disgrace

Hwang became a folk hero in South Korea when he claimed to have produced the first cloned human embryo and the first cloned dog.

In its Tuesday report, the investigators said his claim to have created the world's first cloned dog in 2005, Snuppy, was genuine.

But the 53-year-old Hwang has been under fire since November for his human cloning research. He admitted his team used eggs donated from junior scientists in his lab, a practice frowned upon because of coercion concerns.

His status slid further when colleague Roh Sung-il claimed in December that his research was false, and called him a fake.
'I was deceived'

While taking responsibility for publishing the phony research, Hwang told reporters on Thursday he had been deceived by researchers in another lab.

Citing collaborators at Mizmedi Hospital, also in Seoul, Hwang said they should share the blame.

He insisted he had cloned human embryos, and said researchers at the other hospital were responsible for deriving embryonic stem cells from them.

But they lied to him about their success in doing so, The Associated Press reported him as saying.

Hwang claimed he has the technology to create patient-specific stem cells under the right conditions.

"I think we can create patient-specific stem cells in six months if eggs are sufficiently provided," he said.

Before the scandal broke out, Hwang was widely admired in South Korea, with President Roh Moo-hyun opening a World Stem Cell Hub center, in a project seen as putting the country at the forefront of cloning research.

The government had already given him 25 billion won ($24.7 million), according to AP reports.

Prosecutors raided his home and offices on Thursday as part of a criminal probe into the alleged misuse of state funds, South Korean media reported.

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