for National Geographic News
Seoul National University officials have concluded their monthlong investigation into the work of former star scientist Woo Suk Hwang.
The findings, released yesterday, confirm that the South Korean fabricated key research, including claims to have cloned the first human embryo in 2004 and patient-specific stem cell lines last year.
For Hwang, the review offered one bright spot, however. Snuppy, a black-and-tan Afghan hound, really is the world's first cloned dog.
Hwang created the floppy-eared male puppy last year through a process known as somatic-cell nuclear transferthe same method that produced Dolly the sheep, the first successfully cloned mammal.
Hwang's dog-cloning feat was questioned after misconduct claims regarding his other research surfaced in November.
The journal Nature, which published Hwang's dog-cloning study, initiated independent DNA tests to verify Hwang's claims.
The new tests included DNA fingerprinting analysis of blood samples from Snuppy; from Tai, the dog that donated the cell nucleus that was later cloned; and from unrelated Afghan hounds.
Elaine Ostrander at the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, led the outside review for Nature.
"This is indeed a valid cloning of a dog from adult somatic cells," Ostrander said in a teleconference with reporters Tuesday.
The genetics expert said the blood samples were supplied to her lab by Kwon Chung, a member of Seoul National University's investigative committee.
In late December similar tests by a Korean laboratory also confirmed that Snuppy (short for Seoul National University puppy) is a clone.
As a result of the controversy surrounding Hwang's work, Ostrander says, peer-reviewed journals will now employ added safeguards to verify the findings of important studies.
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