08/01/2008, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Authorities deny Hwang Woo-suk the right to conduct research on human embryos

Hwang Woo-suk is still on trial for violating bioethics laws and falsifying results of his scientific experiments.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – The South Korean government rejected a request by disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk to resume human stem cell research, the Korea Times reported today. The paper stressed that the decision has in all likelihood dealt a final blow to the scientist, famous for his battle in favour of human cloning.

Once hailed as a national hero, the cloning pioneer saw his stem cell research stopped in 2006 when charges of fraud and violation of bioethics laws were brought against him for fabricating laboratory test results.

The veterinary’s fall from grace came after his international peers and the University of Seoul revealed that his research on stem cell embryos had been falsified to give the impression that he had successfully cloned healthy cells from patients affected by incurable diseases.

The decision is thus another reversal in Hwang’s attempt to regain his lost honour.

“We have decided not to approve the request by the Suam Biotechnology Institute (SBI) to begin research on human embryonic stem cells for medical treatment purposes,” the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs was quoted as saying in a statement.

For all intents and purposes this ends Hwang’s hopes for the research institute he founded in 2006.

“The decision was made as Hwang still stands on trial on charges that he violated the nation's bioethical laws and was fired from his school” and banned from teaching, the statement said.

The ministry explained that it respected the opinion of the National Bioethics Committee, which recently recommended that it not give the go-ahead for Hwang's stem cell research.

Despite everything Hwang and his team have continued their research on animal cloning, recently announcing success in making three genetically identical copies of a dog that died years before.

For Mr Hwang the use of stem cells would help treating diseases like heart failure, Alzheimer and Parkinson.

However, embryonic stem cell research has opened a moral and scientific Pandora’s Box as stakeholders debate ethics, science and the right to life at every stage.

For its part, the Catholic Church has clearly staked its position, reiterating the view that embryos are fully human.

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