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Report criticizes stem-cell expert's reasearch behavior

Report criticizes stem-cell expert's reasearch behavior

A U.S. stem-cell expert committed ``research misbehavior'' in his work with a now-disgraced South Korean scientist, but his actions don't fit the University of Pittsburgh's narrow definition of scientific wrongdoing, an investigative panel said Friday.

The University of Pittsburgh Research Integrity panel concluded that Dr. Gerald Schatten ``likely did not intentionally falsify or fabricate experimental data'' and said there was no evidence he knew of misconduct in Dr. Hwang Woo-suk's work in South Korea.

However, it found that Schatten, as co-author with Hwang on a 2005 article, ``did not exercise a sufficiently critical perspective as a scientist.''

The report is also critical of Schatten's acceptance of $40,000 from Hwang over 15 months, including $10,000 in cash while attending a press conference after the 2005 paper was published.

A South Korean academic panel recently determined that Hwang fabricated data to support his claim that he cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them. It also concluded Hwang falsely claimed in 2005 to have developed 11 stem cell lines tailored to specific patients.

The claim of a cloning breakthrough had offered false hope to millions suffering from paralysis and debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and AIDS.

Schatten, Hwang's sole American collaborator, ended their 20-month partnership in November after Hwang came under fire for using eggs in his studies donated by junior researchers on his team. Schatten also asked the journal Science to remove him as senior author of a 2005 paper in which Hwang claimed the first cloned human embryo.

The Pittsburgh panel did not recommend any disciplinary action in Schatten's case, saying it would leave that to school officials.

Dr. Arthur Levine, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, accepted the panel's findings. Any corrective action would be at his discretion and remain confidential.

Schatten remains a tenured professor and active researcher at the university, officials said.

A news release sent by the university announcing the findings noted that the panel had commended Schatten for his role in promptly alerting the scientific community of his suspicions about Hwang.

The university said no panel member or university official would comment on the findings.

In South Korea, Hwang has publicly apologized, though he has claimed that he was deceived by fellow researchers and that some of the cloned embryonic stem cells were maliciously switched.

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