06/28/2006, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Seoul: "cloning pioneer" plans to resume stem cell research

Hwang Woo-suk has collected private funding to set up a new laboratory, where he intends to manipulate embryonic stem cells again. It is not clear from where he will get the eggs necessary for his research, given that he no longer has a licence from the Health Ministry.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Dr Hwang Woo-suk, South Korean "cloning pioneer" has announced plans to open a new laboratory next month to resume research. This was revealed today by his lawyer, Lee Geon-haeng.

Lee said the researcher had managed to obtain private funds to open a laboratory in Seoul early next month. "Dr Hwang feels that the only way to win people's forgiveness and reclaim his honour is to resume research and show accomplishments," Mr Lee said in a telephone interview. "He's executing his plans very carefully in efforts not to stir any misunderstanding."

The vet was disgraced when the international scientific community and the capital's university revealed that the results of his research about embryonic stem cells had been completely falsified in the laboratory, to give the impression that he had managed to clone healthy cells from sick people stricken by incurable diseases.

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

Science withdrew both articles after the Seoul National University (SNU) said the studies were faked and the stem cells had not been created genetically but came from the eggs of donors.

Hwang will resume his research together with members of his old staff, who used to work with him at the SNU, but he is worried he will not be able to procure enough human eggs for this type of research. The South Korean Health Ministry, after the scandal, revoked his licence and forbade him from cloning human embryos or from receiving eggs from national reserves. It is not yet clear how the researcher intends to overcome this obstacle.

Hwang is currently facing trial for the misappropriation of state and private funds worth an estimated 2.8 billion won (around 2.5 million euros) and for buying the eggs needed for his experiments, a practice forbidden by the country's bioethics law.

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