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Scientist faces questions over credentials for honor (2)

(China Daily)

16:38, August 25, 2011

According to Ding, if scientists take cells that are to become an organ and inject them directly into the body of an animal, they will either die or disperse and lose the shape of what they were to become.

To avoid this, scientists had the idea of getting the cells to grow in molds made of biodegradable materials, which would disappear when the new organs formed.

"The ears on the mice were generated from cartilage cells from cows and pigs," Ding said. "From the beginning, Cao has never said he was using human cells. So there has been no cheating at all."

Ding Xiaobang said Cao has been trying to use similar methods for years in plastic surgery. One of the many difficulties he encountered was in making an artificial ear that was hard enough to be useful.

"Many children are born without an ear and have to undergo plastic surgery," Ding said.

To make artificial ears, surgeons now remove three ribs from a patient, carve them into an ear shape and plant the result of that work under the patient's skin. Tissue engineering is not only being studied as a way to make organs partly composed of cartilage but also as a means of repairing or replacing bones, blood vessels, bladders and skin.

Cao's case is not the first time that the process used to select academicians has come under scrutiny. This month, Rao Yi, dean of Peking University's school of life sciences, was excluded as a nominee in the first round of voting on academician candidates.

Rao later published a blog announcing he would never seek a second nomination for the honor. His words incited a public debate over the fairness of the selection procedure.

According to the Academic Divisions of Chinese Academy of Engineering' website, academicians are selected every two years and no more than 60 get picked at a time. Nominees to the honor are required to have made systematic and creative contribution to science and technology.

The team judging the candidates is to only listen to accusations against candidates that are made by people who provide their full names.

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