11/29/2006, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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"Cloning pioneer" want to manipulate human cells again

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young

Hwang Woo-suk, disgraced after his fake experiments on embryonic stem cells, claimed that he could produced cloned cells "to measure" within six months, starting out from embryonic stem cells.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The disgraced cloning "pioneer", South Korean Hwang Woo-suk, hopes to "resume human embryonic stem cell research as soon as possible"  despite serious scandals surrounding his work and the revoking of his licence as national researcher. This was confirmed yesterday by his lawyer Lee Geon-haeng.

The lawyer said: "Hwang wants to work on human embryonic stem cells again. He seems to think that creating patient-specific stem cells is the only way to apologize for what he has done.

The vet, who was once a "national hero", fell into disgrace after the international scientific community and the capital's university revealed that results of his research on embryonic stem cells were fabricated in the laboratory to give the impression that he had managed to clone healthy cells from sick people stricken by diseases for which no cure is currently available.

Hwang used to be considered one of the foremost scientists in the world in the genetic field. The results of his research were published in 2004 and 2005 in two issues of the major US scientific journal Science in which the researcher claimed he had created stem cell lines with the cloning of human embryos.

However, Science withdrew both articles after the Seoul National University (SNU) revealed his studies were faked and stem cells had not been created genetically but had come from donor eggs.

Since May, Hwang has been on trial for misappropriation of state and private funds worth an estimated 2.8 billion won (around 2.5 million euros) and for buying eggs needed for his experiments, a practice forbidden by the country's bioethics law. Consequently, the government withdrew the researcher's license. If guilty, he faces up to three years in jail.

The lawyer said Hwang's decision to return to work was rooted in his "confidence that he could create cloned cells in about half a year". However, Lee has not explained how Hwang will manage to resume his manipulation of human eggs after the National Consultative Ethics Committee for Life revoked his licence as a researcher, accusing him "unethical decisions in the course of his experiments".

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