12/18/2007, 00.00
KOREA
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The false “cloning pioneer” wants to work on stem cells again

Hwang Woo-suk, who fraudulently claimed to have succeeded in cloning human embryonic stem cells from patients with incurable diseases, has applied for a government permit to carry out new stem cell research. The authorities are “puzzled” by his request.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A team consisting of disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk and other Korean cloning experts has requested approval from the government to initiate a study on stem cells, leaving authorities perplexed over whether to approve the proposal, government sources said yesterday.

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 country has a total of six government-recognized research centers that meet the requirements needed to request permission for stem cell studies. Ministry officials, however, said they were unclear on whether to give the green light to the proposed study, as the team leader is relatively inexperienced in the field of stem cell research.

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