SEOUL -- South Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk faked results of at least nine of 11 stem cell lines he said he created, a deliberate deception that has undermined the credibility of science, his university said today.
The announcement by Seoul National University of results so far in its investigation into Hwang's work was the first confirmation of allegations that have cast a shadow over his entire list of breakthroughs in cloning and stem cell technology.
''This kind of error is a grave act that damages the foundation of science," the panel said.
In a May paper in the journal Science, Hwang said he created 11 stem cell lines matched to patients in an achievement that raised hopes of creating tailored therapies for hard-to-treat diseases. But one of his former collaborators last week said nine of the 11 cell lines were faked, prompting reviews by the journal and a panel at Seoul National University, where Hwang works.
The panel said today it found that ''the laboratory data for 11 stem cell lines that were reported in the 2005 paper were all data made using two stem cell lines in total."
To create fake DNA results purporting to show a match, Hwang's team split cells from one patient into two test tubes for the analysis -- rather than actually match cloned cells to a patient's original cells, the university said.
''Based on these facts, the data in the 2005 Science paper cannot be some error from a simple mistake, but cannot be but seen as a deliberate fabrication to make it look like 11 stem cell lines using results from just two," the panel said.
''There is no way but that professor Hwang has been involved," the university's dean of research affairs, Roe Jung-hye, told a news conference, adding that Hwang ''somewhat admits to this."
The panel said DNA tests expected to be completed within a few days would confirm whether the remaining two stem cell lines it had found were actually successfully cloned from a patient.
In light of the revelations, the panel said it would now also investigate Hwang's other landmark papers -- which include another Science article in 2004 on the world's first cloned human embryos, and an August 2005 paper in the journal Nature on the first-ever cloned dog. The journals already are reviewing all the work.
Hwang, a veterinarian, has maintained his science is sound and that tests will prove his case.
However, he admitted last week to ''fatal errors" in the May report and asked Science to withdraw the paper. He acknowledged that at the time of publication, his team had created only eight cell lines. But he said three more were created later.
The panel said today that it found no records of two of the other stem cell lines Hwang said he created.
Hwang's article this year had also been viewed as significant for his efficiency in cloning the stem cell lines, contending to use just 185 human eggs to create custom-made embryonic stem cells for the 11 patients.
But Roe said the investigation had ''found that there have been a lot more eggs used than were reported" and were investigating the exact number.
The university is waiting to take action against Hwang until its investigation is complete, but Roe said: ''It's hard for professor Hwang to escape grave responsibility."