After weeks of increasing suspicion directed at Seoul National University researcher Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk, his resignation from the university was announced today. Dr. Hwang has for years been in the forefront of the media publicity storm accompanying mammalian cloning: supporters hailed such advances as cloned puppies and cloned human embryos created for the purposed of yielding stem cells for therapeutics. In addition to his position at SNU, he was the head of South Korea's Stem Cell Hub project until earlier this month, when he resigned amid allegations of improprieties in the process used to obtain human eggs from young women. Now not just the most current work, in which Dr. Hwang and his colleagues claimed to have created personalized embryonic stem cell lines for individual patients, is under question. The entire output of the South Korean stem cell research juggernaut will have to be taken apart and reexamined, bit by bit, by independent researchers, before any of it is admitted back into the universe of demonstrated scientific results.
The South Korean project has often been used as a stick with which to beat American government policy towards embryonic stem cell research: If only we had government funding, look what we could do! The rest of the world will leave us in the dust. These fundie cranks are standing in the way of reason and progress. Phooey. The scientific establishment should be ashamed this morning that, as Dr. Hwang's gang racked up paper after peer-reviewed paper, the only questions that were raised about his work came from people the press labelled as religious nuts and anti-rational Luddites.
For my part, I was suspicious of the whole enterprise the moment I laid eyes on Snuppy. Faced with a choice of over 200 dog breeds, an eminent scientist clones an Afghan hound? If you ranked dogs by intelligence an Afghan hound would place somewhere between a cicada and a head of cabbage.