There’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that the scientific review process does work. Science is retracting (all of these Science and Nature articles are behind a paywall) an article that has been proven to include forged photographs, due to the questions about these photographs from other researchers. Although the actual research and premise of the research my have some validity, it needs to be replicated and validated in other labs, by other researchers.
The bad news, I’m afraid, is that the reason that the article came under scrutiny in the first place (and the reason we will hear about it over and over and over) is that the findings were hailed as further proof from a study of very early mouse embryology that the embryo is a unique organism from fertilization, since the immediate result of the first division showed different fates and different genetic markers.
There is nothing here to discount the fact that the zygote is an organism. In fact, the cdx2 marker is indeed found mostly at one end of the zygote and most of it ends up one of the cells after division. The article, “Your destiny from day one” in Nature.com (behind a paywall) covered the work by R.L. Gardner and Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz:
Nature 418, 14-15 (4 July 2002)
“Developmental biology: Your destiny, from day one”
by Helen Pearson
The mammalian body plan starts being laid down from the moment of conception, it has emerged. Helen Pearson considers the implications of a surprising shift in embryological thinking.
Your world was shaped in the first 24 hours after conception. Where your head and feet would sprout, and which side would form your back and which your belly, were being defined in the minutes and hours after sperm and egg united.
More proof has been produced in other research, there’s some, here, and a review in this article by Robert P. George and Patrick Lee in the New Atlantis. From this year there’s the report from M.-E. Torres-Padilla et al. [Nature 445, 214–218; (2007)] described this way in Nature (sorry, also subscription only):
Nature 445, 157 (11 January 2007) Published online 10 January 2007
“Developmental biology: Marked from the start”
Not all cells in the early mammalian embryo are created equal. Even at the four-cell stage, embryonic cells that follow a particular pattern of division already have their developmental fate assigned to them. No cell will contribute exclusively to a specific cell type in the later embryo. But the progeny of some cells make a greater contribution to the ‘inner cell mass’ — the stem cells destined to become the fetus — and its surrounding ‘trophectoderm’, which forms extraembryonic structures such as the placenta. The progeny of other cells will make a greater contribution to other extraembryonic structures.
However, I’m afraid we should expect to see this scandal used against those of us who would protect embryonic human life.