Biggest Science Scandal Ever?


Forget Piltdown Man! Human embryonic stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang faked his data in his May 2005 Science article in which he claimed to have derived eleven patient specific stem cell lines from cloned human embryos. This is the conclusion reached by a committee of Seoul National University scientists. This fakery casts doubt on Hwang's other published research, including his claim to have produced the first cloned dog, Snuppy, and on his claim to have produced cloned human embryos in the first place.

This scandal is extremely demoralizing. First, because Hwang's research raised the hopes of thousands of patients who looked to his research for eventual cures of their disabilities and diseases. Second, because opponents of stem cell research will point to Hwang's fraud arguing that stem cell researchers are so unethical that they cannot be trusted to develop this technology. Third, because this deception undermines the public's trust in the scientific enterprise which has consequences for future support and regulation.

How did Hwang think that he could get away with this fraud? It's not like he was reporting results from some backwater of biochemistry.

Finally, Hwang's fakery raises the question whether or not human cloning has in fact ever been achieved? The good news is that British researchers announced earlier this year that they had cloned a human embryo, although they did not create an embryonic stem cell line from that cloned embryo.

This is a very sad day for science. Shame on you Professor Hwang!