The journal Cloning and Stem Cells has announced on its website that it has pulled a scientific research paper from publication, pending the outcome of an investigation into the research data's accuracy. The research was submitted by a team of researchers at Seoul National University (SNU) led by Byung-Chun Lee and Nam-Shik Shin and detailed their success in cloning two endangered Korean wolves. At the authors' request, corrections needed to be made to the article's scientific data, and SNU has launched an investigation into the inclusion of the mistaken data submitted for publication, as well as, verification of the research experiment as a whole.
The incorrect data was discovered in a table that dealt with the mitochondrial DNA sequencing of the wolves and their surrogate mothers. In addition, the article mistakenly stated a lower success rate for past cloning efforts which made the technical breakthrough seem more dramatic. Lee has made public statements that both mistakes were unintentional.
This follows on the heels of South Korea's international stem cell scandal, which deeply damaged the public perception of stem cell research and disgraced internationally renowned scientist Woo Suk Hwang. SNU discovered that Professor Hwang had faked significant parts of his research upon which he based two publications in top scientific journals, announcing his success in deriving the world's first human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines from cloned human embryos. He is currently standing trial for fraud, embezzlement and other bioethical breaches. He and many of his colleagues have since left SNU but Hwang maintains he can prove he created the first cloned hESCs.
Lee was a leading member of Hwang's team in 2005 who successfully cloned the first dog, SNUppy, which was later verified as a true clone by SNU and other authorities. Last month, the scientists publicly announced they had cloned two female wolves, SNUwolf and SNUwolfy, in October 2005. The inclusion of the incorrect data in the paper detailing this research is a further embarrassment to which SNU is highly sensitised. It holds a position under an international microscope of scepticism and has been quick to take action. A university panel is conducting a preliminary probe. Tissue and blood samples from the wolves were sent for external expert verification on 10 April, with results expected in the next two to three weeks.