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S. Korean Researcher Requests Cloning Paper Retraction

Announcement follows flurry of worldwide questioning of results, ethics

MONDAY, Dec. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Following a worldwide flurry of fraud and ethics charges, the editors of Science announced Friday that South Korean scientist Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk has requested that his cloning study published online by the journal in May be withdrawn because of errors. However, Hwang still maintains that, despite the errors, the findings are sound.

"This has been a long and confusing, and eventually disappointing, few weeks," Donald Kennedy, editor-in-chief of Science said at a news conference. "It is clear that the authors are going to need to provide more details as to where the errors lie and how they arose."

Hwang and a team of 24 co-authors originally reported that they had created 11 human embryonic stem cell lines from the skin cells of patients.

Last month, Hwang's senior co-author Dr. Gerald Schatten, vice chairman of research development in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences of the University of Pittsburgh, severed ties with Hwang over a question about how the eggs for the cloning were obtained. And this week, he asked the journal to remove his name from the study because he doubted its accuracy.

Then on Thursday, a second study co-author went to the media, and charged most of the 11 stem cell lines were faked. Kennedy added that the journal does not retract a paper unless all authors have agreed to the retraction. Hwang and Schatten have already asked the journal to retract the article.

"Dr. Hwang has assured us that he is energetically engaged in getting in touch with the other authors for the purpose of getting that agreement," he said.

If the authors cannot agree on a retraction, Kennedy added, the journal could editorially retract the paper, essentially "advising the scientific community to ignore it."

Hwang, a professor at Seoul National University in South Korea, has been hailed as a pioneer for his work in stem cell reproduction.

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