But even some of Hwang's staunchest supporters were shaken by the turn of events.
"I feel distressed," said Jeong Ha Gyun, president of the Korean Spinal Cord Injury Assn. "I still want to strongly believe we have the technology to make stem cells."
Many scientists also were disappointed to see Hwang's apparent breakthrough unravel. It means no one has yet figured out a way to conduct therapeutic cloning efficiently, Daley said.
"I still believe there are no theoretical reasons why [therapeutic cloning] wouldn't work," he said. "I'm hopeful that this is a technical barrier that we'll ultimately be able to pass."
Rumors and accusations of scientific misconduct have dogged Hwang for weeks. The 53-year-old researcher had been hospitalized for stress recently.
Hwang has claimed that his research partners at a fertility clinic in Seoul switched the stem cell lines. He filed a petition in court Thursday asking for an investigation of the laboratory at MizMedi Hospital, where some of his research samples had been stored.
MizMedi's chairman, Dr. Roh Sung Il, prompted the university's investigation by telling KBS television last week that Hwang had admitted to him that some of the research he had published was faked.
Demick reported from Seoul and Kaplan from Los Angeles. Times staff writer Jinna Park and the Associated Press contributed to this report.