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South Korean Stem Cell Researcher Resigns in Disgrace After University Says He Faked Results


The South Korean university that once boasted of its relationship with stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk has now condemned him for grave misconduct. University investigators say the researcher falsified his research results, and Dr. Hwang has resigned in disgrace.

Roe Jung-hye, chief of the Seoul National University's research office, said Friday that Dr. Hwang faked most of his research results, which were hailed as groundbreaking when first announced.

Ms. Roe says Dr. Hwang has committed major misconduct, which undermines the fundamentals of science.

Dr. Hwang won international acclaim earlier this year when he claimed he had extracted 11 separate sets of stem cells - a basic building block of the human body - from human embryos he had cloned.

However, the SNU investigative panel found that Dr. Hwang only managed to extract and preserve two sets of stem cells, and then used those to fabricate the other nine sets. An investigation continues to determine if even those first two lines were genuine.

Dr. Hwang announced his resignation as a Seoul National University professor shortly after the investigation results were announced.

Dr. Hwang became a national hero when his research was first announced. He was forced to admit last month to covering up ethical irregularities in his method of obtaining human eggs for research, but instead of losing faith in him, the public directed its anger at the Korean television station that first called his research into question.

After the latest announcement, student researchers sobbed as Dr. Hwang publicly apologized for yet another breach of scientific trust.

A tearful Dr. Hwang says he is deeply sorry, but says South Korea is still capable of taking the global lead in stem cell research.

However, that, too, is now in doubt. The government backed him strongly after he first came to prominence, but officials of the Ministry of Science and Technology said they feel "miserable" about the latest developments, and they may consider cutting off further funding for his projects.

All of his work is now under intense scrutiny, including his claim to have cloned a dog.

Advocates of stem cell research say it holds tremendous potential for treating spinal injury and diseases, such as Parkinson's. Religious conservatives oppose the research, saying it involves the deliberate death of human embryos, which they view as a form of human life.