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The currency of science is the peer-reviewed and peer-accepted manuscript that is “backed by a gold standard” of scientific integrity and scrupulous honesty. Anything that tarnishes this “gold standard” threatens to devalue the worth of scientific currency. Ultimately, society itself suffers because scientific advancement prepares the way for societal progress.

Recently, allegations of scientific misconduct have been directed at prominent scientists in well-funded laboratories in Seoul, South Korea. Professor Roh Jung-hye, dean of research affairs of Seoul National University, on December 23, 2005, announced that the University's Review Panel confirmed that Professor Hwang Woo-suk fabricated at least some of his stem cell research results. Although the Panel's work continues, this news has sent a shudder that has been globally felt.

A pillar of society is under siege since the integrity of the scientific method and the sacredness of its publication have been perverted.

For these reasons, the Senior Editors of the journal STEM CELLS have revisited and carefully re-reviewed peer-accepted papers published by investigators who have worked with Professor Hwang. Our rigorous review, which is ongoing, employs the same due diligence that we devote to a proffered manuscript. Simply said, we are using time-honored peer-review.

To date, our peer-review has discovered a matter of serious concern with the following report entitled, “Effects of Type IV Collagen and Laminin on the Cryopreservation of Human Embryonic Stem Cells,” by Sun Jong Kim, Jong Hyuk Park, Jeoung Eun Lee, Jin Mee Kim, Jung Bok Lee, Shin Yong Moon, Sung Il Roh, Chul Geun Kim, and Hyun Soo Yoon (STEM CELLS 2004;22:950-961).

Our careful examination of the published figures reveals that Figures 1A and 1C are, or appear to be, photomicrographs of the same cells. The figures' legends, however, describe them under dramatically different culture conditions and as totally different cells.

Equally disturbing is the observation that the cells depicted in Figure 3B in the same STEM CELLS report appear to be the same cells in Figure 2D of a manuscript published in SCIENCE (2004; 303:1669-1674).

We have sent interrogatories to the authors offering them the opportunity to explain these findings.

Because of the gravity of these observations, we are following the lead of Dr. Donald Kennedy, editor-in-chief of SCIENCE, by “issuing this statement so that readers are aware that concerns have been raised about the validity of the data in the paper.”

As with all peer-review, we suspend final judgment until all the facts are in hand. We pledge to keep you, our readers, informed as promptly as possible.

The editors suggest the following related resources:

Effects of Type IV Collagen and Laminin on the Cryopreservation of Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Sun Jong Kim, Jong Hyuk Park, Jeoung Eun Lee, Jin Mee Kim, Jung Bok Lee, Shin Yong Moon, Sung Il Roh, Chul Geun Kim, Hyun Soo Yoon. STEM CELLS 2004;22:950-961

Evidence of a Pluripotent Human Embryonic Stem Cell Line Derived from a Cloned Blastocyst

Woo Suk Hwang, Young June Ryu, Jong Hyuk Park, Eul Soon Park, Eu Gene Lee, Ja Min Koo, Hyun Yong Jeon, Byeong Chun Lee, Sung Keun Kang, Sun Jong Kim, Curie Ahn, Jung Hye Hwang, Ky Young Park, Jose B. Cibelli, and Shin Yong Moon. Science 12 March 2004: 1669-1674

Editorial Expression of Concern

Donald Kennedy. Science (Published Online December 22, 2005).