The cloned grey wolves created by scientists at Seoul National University (SNU) are genuine, independent tests have shown. Questions over the animals were raised following the withdrawal of the scientific paper describing the achievement from the journal Cloning and Stem Cells. SNU launched an investigation of the work after it emerged that incorrect data had been included in the publication.
The SNU team had once been led by disgraced South Korean researcher Woo Suk Hwang, who was listed as an author on the wolf cloning paper. Hwang 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 lines from cloned human embryos.
But according to Kuk Yang, chief of SNU's office of research affairs, the irregularities in the wolf study were down to an honest mistake, and not an attempt at fraud. 'We concluded the team did not need or intend to inflate the success rate', he said, adding that the errors were confined to one table, and that the team had asked to correct its data once they realised the mistake.
Lead author Lee Byeong-chun was a member of the team that 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. Since then, six more wolf clones have been born, three of which have died.
The Korean grey wolf is an endangered species, and cloning is thought to be one way in which the animals can be saved from extinction. Other endangered species successfully cloned include the gaur (a species of wild ox), the mouflon, an endangered wild sheep, and more recently the banteng (a rare Javanese cattle) and an African wildcat.