Last May, Woo Suk Hwang and colleagues at Seoul National University, Korea, and Gerald Schatten at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania, made a splash when they reported in Science that they had succeeded in making 11 different human clones (see ARF related news story). Today, Science announced that the authors have requested that their paper be retracted. Before the journal can do so, it must have permission of all the authors.
The imminent retraction follows a controversy that began over issues related to the ethics of egg donation, and then grew to include questions about the veracity of the stem cell data itself. According to media reports, a former colleague of Hwang alleged that at least some of the data might have been fabricated. At a news conference today, Hwang denied having falsified any data, but admitted to human error in the handling of the stem cell lines. Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Schatten had asked for his name to be removed from the paper. Last Tuesday, independent stem cell researchers, including Ian Wilmut from Edinburgh University, called on Hwang to accept their help in independently verifying that the clones and the donors are genetically identical. This story is unfolding in detail in the general press while Science magazine, Seoul National University, and the University of Pittsburgh are each investigating the issue. The Science website is posting regular updates and editorial statements on the issue.
The retraction does not affect a paper published by Hwang and colleagues in February 2004, in which they reported the first human clone (see ARF related news story), though that data will come under renewed scrutiny, as well.—Tom Fagan.