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S.Korea upholds suspended term for faked stem-cell research

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:41 am

SEOUL, Dec 16, 2010 (AFP) – A South Korean appeals court Thursday upheld a suspended prison term for a scientist whose claims of stem-cell breakthroughs rocked the scientific world until his research was found to be faked.


But the court reduced the penalty on Hwang Woo-Suk, imposing an 18-month sentence suspended for two years.

Hwang Woo-Suk (C) leaves after his trial at the Seoul High Court in Seoul on December 16, 2010. AFP

In October last year Hwang had received a two-year sentence — suspended for three years — for embezzling research funds and ethical lapses in obtaining human eggs for experiments.


Prosecutors appealed, saying he should also have been convicted of fraudulently obtaining funds from two local firms using his falsified lab work.


The appeals court affirmed Hwang was guilty of embezzlement but not fraud, saying there was no causal relationship between the funds he obtained and the faked research.


Hwang, who turned 58 on Thursday, shot to fame in 2004 when he published a paper in the US journal Science claiming to have created the world’s first stem-cell line from a cloned human embryo.


In a follow-up paper in 2005 in the same journal, he maintained that his team had developed 11 patient-specific embryonic stem-cell lines.


The claims raised hopes of new treatments for diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s.


The government showered Hwang and his team from the prestigious Seoul National University (SNU) with money and honours, and Hwang was awarded the title of “Supreme Scientist”.


But his reputation was tarnished in November 2005 by allegations that he had violated medical ethics by accepting human eggs from his own researchers.


In January 2006 an SNU investigative team ruled in a report that his findings were faked and said he had produced no stem cells of any kind.


The appeals court said Hwang had undermined the credibility of South Korea’s scientific community. But it said a suspended sentence was in order in view of his work in animal cloning.


Hwang played a key role in creating Snuppy, the world’s first cloned dog, an achievement which has been independently verified.


He has been on bail since his trial began in June 2006. He lost his government licence for human stem-cell research but still retains a loyal following.

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Source: SGGP

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