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World Stem Cell Hub launched

20 October 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 331

An international consortium headed by South Korean stem cell scientist Woo Suk Hwang has announced the establishment of the World Stem Cell Hub. The consortium has set up an international bank of human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) lines at Seoul National University, which will have satellite laboratories in England, and San Francisco in the US.

The aim of the hub is 'to establish a global network on promoting stem cell research', particularly for incurable diseases such as 'nervous system failures, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, glaucoma and hearing disorders', the South Korean health and welfare ministry said in a statement to accompany the launch on 19 October. In 2004, Hwang's team announced the creation of the world's first cloned human ES cell-line, and earlier this year reported the derivation of a further 11 cell-lines from 31 cloned embryo, 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.

The consortium hopes to create about 100 new ES cell-lines per year, from patients with disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and Parkinson's disease, to allow researchers to study how such conditions develop. 'When the use of these stem cells is limited to a particular country, it takes much too long to create technologies usable for the whole of humanity', said Hwang, adding 'by creating a global network, we plan to share stem cells created in each country and share information on these stem cells'.

According to an article on the consortium, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, each laboratory will be associated with a nearby IVF centre where the eggs required to make the new cell-lines will be collected. Women donors would be recruited by researchers after obtaining approval from the relevant oversight committees at their institutions. Three technicians from Hwang's laboratory would then travel regularly to the satellite laboratories to carry out the nuclear transfer (cloning) procedures. After being sent back to Korea for detailed characterisation and quality control, frozen samples of all the cell-lines derived by the consortium will be made available in each of the three countries. Although it will not patent the cell-lines, the group does plan to charge researchers for the samples.

Gerald Schatten, a US biologist and chair of the consortium's board of trustees, said that to move forward, stem cell scientists needed 'a safe haven', adding 'the ethical and legal implications are important, but the most important thing for us is just to have discoveries that are independently confirmed and extended'. He compared ES cell research to the early days of organ transplantation, saying that once the treatment's potential became clear, most religions were convinced that it was a blessing to donate organs. 'We hope that the same thing will happen here', he said. Current US law forbids federally-funded researchers from working with human ES cell-lines created after 9 August 2001, so the only American scientists permitted to use the new cells will be those working in private companies.

An Offshore Haven for Human Embryonic Stem-Cell Research?
NEJM |  20 October 2005
International stem cell bank open
BBC News Online |  19 October 2005
South Korea launches stem cell institute
Yahoo Daily News |  19 October 2005
South Korea to supply cloned human cells
The Boston Globe |  19 October 2005
26 October 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A South Korean court has convicted disgraced stem cell scientist, Hwang Woo-Suk, of embezzling funds and purchasing human eggs for research, after a trial lasting over three years. Hwang was given a two-year sentence suspended for three years by the Seoul Central District Court last week...
30 April 2006 - by BioNews 
The World Stem Cell Hub - set up last year at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea - is the latest victim of the ongoing Korean stem cell and cloning saga. The hub, which was established to create 'a global network' of stem cell lines created in countries across the world...
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...
6 June 2005 - by BioNews 
Woo Suk Hwang - head of the team that announced the creation of 11 patient-specific embryonic stem (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...
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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