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Cloning pioneer plans stem cell bank

6 June 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 311

Woo Suk Hwang - head of the team that announced the creation of 11 patient-specific embryonic stem cell (ES cell)-lines recently - is planning to open an international stem cell bank in South Korea. The bank would mean that all existing human ES cell-lines would be in one place, enabling doctors to identify cells that match their patients' immune systems. Hwang's work has made him famous, both in his own country and around the world. Last week, the Genetics and Policy Institute (GPI) announced that he would receive its first Global Achievement Award in recognition of his research.

Many scientists believe that ES cells - the body's master cells that can grow into almost any type of body tissue - hold the key to new therapies for diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease, as well as spinal cord injuries. So-called 'therapeutic cloning' research aims to derive patient-specific ES cell lines, both to study the disease process and possibly to develop tissue-matched, cell-based treatments. It involves replacing the genetic material of an unfertilised egg with that of a body cell, and then using a chemical trigger to make the resulting cell divide and multiply.

Last year, the Korean team reported that they had created one cloned ES cell line from 30 cloned embryos, after more than 200 tries. This time, the scientists managed to create 11 cell lines from 31 cloned embryos, using just 185 eggs. The team made the ES cell lines using skin cells from nine patients with spinal injuries, a two-year-old boy with a genetic immune disorder and a six-year-old girl with type 1 diabetes. Now, Hwang says he wants to use these cell lines to start a stem cell bank, 'offering them to those patients who sincerely want them for the right reasons'. He added that he was willing, eventually, to put the bank under the management of an international agency.

The South Korean team's work has attracted criticism, because it involves the destruction of human embryos. The Catholic Church of South Korea has condemned the research as 'exploitation of human life'. But Hwang stresses that his goal is treatment, saying that 'we have no intention or goals whatsoever to create life'. He explained that 'when the genetic material is removed from human egg, it becomes a vacant egg shell. I would like to call it that'. Hwang said that he is a scientist, not a politician, and concludes that 'our ultimate goal is for those with incurable diseases to lead social lives, and to recover their humane right to happiness'.

The GPI, a stem cell research advocacy group based in the US, will present Hwang with his achievement award at a meeting this weekend. The 'Stem Cell Policy and Advocacy Summit: Sustaining the Mandate for Cures' conference will be held at the Baylor College of Medicine on 11-12 June. In a press release, the GPI said: 'The Global Achievement Award goes to the individual who has made the greatest worldwide contribution in the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine'. It described Hwang's accomplishments as 'breathtaking' and 'a quantum leap in efficacy'.

Hwang Hopes to Open World Stem Cell Bank
Yahoo Daily News |  1 June 2005
Koreans Forge Ahead on Cloning
Wired News |  1 June 2005
Woo Suk Hwang to receive global achievment award
GPI |  31 May 2005
19 December 2005 - by BioNews 
The computer of Korean embryonic stem (ES) cell research scientist Woo Suk Hwang has been seized by the university he used to work for as part of an investigation into the veracity of his work, after allegations were made about falsified data in his pioneering research. The celebrated paper, published...
9 December 2005 - by BioNews 
The University of Pittsburgh has begun an investigation into research carried out by Korean stem cell scientist Woo Suk Hwang and his former collaborator Gerald Schatten. The celebrated paper, published by Science earlier this year, described the derivation of 11 cloned human embryonic stem (ES) cell-lines from patients with diabetes...
24 November 2005 - by BioNews 
Woo Suk Hwang - head of the South Korean team that obtained the world's first embryonic stem (ES) cells from cloned human embryos - has quit his public positions after admitting that some eggs used in the work were provided by junior researchers and paid donors. The shock resignation follows a statement...
21 November 2005 - by BioNews 
The future of an international consortium aiming to advance human embryo stem (ES) cell research is looking increasingly uncertain, following allegations that its South Korean head, Woo Suk Hwang, used eggs donated by a junior researcher to create cell lines. On 12 November, Gerald Schatten, from Pittsburgh University in the...
14 November 2005 - by BioNews 
A leading American stem cell researcher has abruptly ended his 20 month long collaboration with the team of South Korean scientists famous for creating the world's first human embryonic stem (ES) cell lines from cloned embryos. The same team announced in May that it had managed to derive the world's...
12 February 2004 - by BioNews 
Scientists in South Korea have extracted and grown stem cells from cloned, early human embryos, a breakthrough in 'therapeutic cloning' research. Using a modified version of the technique used to clone Dolly the sheep, the team, based at the Seoul National University, created 30 cloned human embryos. The researchers extracted...
19 January 2004 - by BioNews 
Scientists at the Institute for Frontier for Medical Sciences at Kyoto University in Japan have produced the country's first human embryo stem (ES) cells. Project leader Norio Nakatsuji says that his team has produced enough cells to meet current research needs in Japan, and are now awaiting government approval before...
14 August 2003 - by BioNews 
Researchers at King's College in London have succeeded in growing the UK's first human embryo stem cell-line, it was reported last week. 'We are very excited about this development' said team leader Stephen Minger, adding that human embryonic stem cells 'are capable of giving rise to all the different types...
26 November 2001 - by BioNews 
Scientists in the US announced yesterday that they had created a cloned human embryo for the first time. Their work was part of research into therapeutic cloning - creating cells or tissue for transplant from a person's own cloned embryo and subsequently lessening the risk of rejection. The research team also...
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