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Korean uni 'sorry' for stem cell scandal

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The president of Seoul National University has apologised for the Hwang Woo-suk scandal which has seen the stem cell scientist exposed as a fraud, out of a job and today stripped of his title as Korea's first "supreme scientist", Reuters reports.

Chung Un-chan told a press conference: "Hwang's research team did something scientists should never do. This incident left a mark that cannot be erased in Korea and the international science community. For embarrassing the country, as the president of this university, I am deeply to sorry to everyone."

A panel investigating Hwang's claims to have produced tailored stem cells and the world's first cloned dog yesterday reported that data in two papers into the former could not be proved but that Hwang's team had indeed cloned Afghan hound Snuppy.

Hwang also stands accused of "coercing" female team members into providing their own eggs for stem cell research, and now faces a possible probe into misuse of state funds - a charge which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years' jail, local media says.

Hwang does still have his supporters - a few hundred fans draped in Korean flags and bearing banners reading "Hwang is the pride of Korea" have held a candlelit vigil in downtown Seoul, Reuters notes. The disgraced scientist may hold a press conference tomorrow, and continues to defend his findings.

Elsewhere, meanwhile, fellow stem cell reseachers are downplaying the significance of Hwang's disgrace. Dr Stephern Minger, of Kings College London, told Reuters: "All of us who admired Hwang are deeply saddened by this revelation. However, it is likely to have a minimal effect on stem cell biology per se and work in the field will continue." ®

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