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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 April 2007, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
S Korea wolf clone claims probed
Wolf clone, AFP
The university has secured blood and cell samples from the wolves
A claim by South Korean scientists to have created the first cloned wolves is being investigated by officials at the team's university.

The group is led by Lee Byeong-chun, a former collaborator of disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk.

In 2005, a Seoul National University panel concluded stem cell research by Dr Hwang had been fabricated.

The wolf cloning team is suspected of using erroneous data to inflate their claims, a university statement said.

The results - published in the scientific journal Cloning and Stem Cells - may contain false DNA information, the statement continued.

Lee Byeong-chun, a veterinary professor and leader of the research, announced last month that his team had succeeded in cloning the two wolves, named Snuwolf and Snuwolffy.

The wolf clones were both born in October 2005.

Samples taken

The research was called into question after it was found that the team gave incorrect details in a table analysing the mitochondrial DNA sequence of the wolves and their surrogate mother dogs.

Lee Byeong-chun, AFP
Dr Lee's claims are being investigated by his university
Seoul National University's Committee on Research Integrity has seized blood and cell samples from three wolves - the one that provided eggs and the two clones - as well as from one of two dogs which also provided eggs for the research.

"We have delivered the samples to a trustworthy agency for analysis," said Kuk Young, head of the research department.

"I assure you the investigation will be thorough as the school's honour is at stake. The reason that we requested an outside agency to do the job is aimed to secure objectivity and credibility," he told journalists.

The university said it was contacted last week by someone it refused to identify who made the allegations.

Corrections requested

Last week, South Korean media reported that young scientists had raised the allegations in internet blogs.

Aside from the faulty table, Professor Lee's research paper on the wolf cloning was found to contain a simple mistake in calculating the success rate of his attempts to clone dogs.

This error understated the past success rate and made the apparent technical progress the team had made since then more impressive.

The scientist said both "mistakes" were inadvertent and he had asked the journal Cloning and Stem Cells to correct the figure and table.

Professor Lee's team successfully cloned a female dog, an Afghan hound named Bona, last year after creating the world's first cloned dog in 2005.

Lee was a key member of Hwang's research team, whose much-heralded breakthroughs in creating human stem cell lines through cloning were found to be fake.

But the team's success in cloning the world's first dog, Snuppy, was confirmed.

Dr Hwang is facing trial on fraud, embezzlement and violating the country's bioethics laws.

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