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World Stem Cell Hub is shut down

30 April 2006
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 356

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, and to share information, has now been formally shut down.

The World Stem Cell Hub was set up by an international consortium - headed by South Korean stem cell scientist Woo Suk Hwang - on 19 October 2005. At the time, the consortium announced that it had set up an international bank of human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) lines at Seoul National University (SNU), and that it would also have satellite laboratories in England, and San Francisco in the US.

The aim of the hub, according to the South Korean health and welfare ministry, was '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'. In 2004, Hwang's team had announced the creation of the world's first cloned human ES cell-line and, earlier in 2005, reported, in the journal Science, the derivation of a further 11 cell-lines from 31 cloned embryos, using just 185 eggs.

In November last year, the future of the hub began to look doubtful, when allegations were made suggesting that Hwang had used eggs donated by a junior researcher to create his 11 ES cell lines. On 12 November, Gerald Schatten, from Pittsburgh University in the US, ended his 20 month collaboration with Hwang because of the allegations. Following these events, other laboratories that were to form part of the hub also said they would pull out of the consortium. Hwang later quit his public positions - including that as chair of the World Stem Cell Hub - after admitting that some eggs used in the work were provided by junior researchers and paid donors.

Subsequently, an investigation found that the 11 ES cell lines reported in Science had been 'faked'. These revelations lead to the retraction of the publication in January 2006, and questions about other research. Later in January, the panel investigating Hwang's work reported that research showing that Hwang's team had created the world's first ES cell line from a cloned human embryo was also faked - an investigation lead by SNU found that no such cell line exists. The finding completed Hwang's downfall - he was suspended from his SNU post in February and then formally dismissed in March. However, he recently said he was going to appeal his dismissal.

In March, SNU transformed the World Stem Cell Hub into a research centre focusing on research into adult stem cells and other developing medical technologies for clinical use, such as gene therapy, said Lim Jong-Pil, a spokesman for SNU. Professor Heo Dae-seog, head of the new centre, said that any decisions on whether it will resume experiments with ES cells will be taken in the future. However, he said, 'our direct goal is to study a biological mechanism customised for a patient', adding 'to that end, priorities would be put on adult stem cells or insulin-secreting cells'.

Korea Revamps Stem Cell Hub, Tries to Put Hwang Saga Behind
The Korea Times |  27 April 2006
South Korea World Stem Cell Hub to Focus on Adult Stem Cell Research Now |  27 April 2006
World stem cell hub shuts down
Zee News |  27 April 2006
3 May 2009 - by Heidi Colleran 
South Korea's Presidential Committee on Bioethics has granted the first human embryonic stem (ES) cell research licence since their preeminent research scientist fell spectacularly from grace amidst allegations of scientific fraud and embezzlement, over three years ago. Cha Medical Center in the South Korean capital, Seoul, has...
17 April 2007 - by MacKenna Roberts 
The journal Cloning and Stem Cells has announced on its website that it has pulled a scientific research paper from publication, pending the outcome of an investigation into the research data's accuracy. The research was submitted by a team of researchers at Seoul National University (SNU) led...
4 December 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
Science, the journal which published fraudulent stem cell research by disgraced Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang, has announced the results of a committee set up to review the editorial procedures that allowed the work to be published and to advise on how to avoid similar mistakes in...
20 August 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
Hwang Woo-Suk, the Korean scientist at the centre of the faked cloning scandal last year, has returned to the lab and resumed his research on animals. Hwang, who was sacked from his position at Seoul National University following the scandal, is thought to have secured private funding...
3 July 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
South Korean stem cell scientist Woo Suk Hwang, currently facing charges of fraud and embezzlement, is set to resume animal cloning research as early as next month. Hwang, who could spend up to 10 years in prison if convicted, is going to set up a new...
27 March 2006 - by BioNews 
Seoul National University (SNU) has announced it will dismiss the discredited South Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang, for his involvement in fabricating data during his work on human embryonic stem (ES) cells. Six other professors and co-authors on two Science papers published by the group - now formally retracted - will not...
13 February 2006 - by BioNews 
Seoul National University (SNU) has suspended the discredited South Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang and six other professors in his team from their teaching and research posts. The scientists have yet to be formally punished by SNU, for faking data and breaching ethical standards in their work on human embryonic...
12 January 2006 - by BioNews 
The panel investigating the work of South Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang has reported that further research published by his team was faked. The scientists, based at Seoul National University (SNU), claimed in 2004 that they had created the world's first embryonic stem (ES) cell line from a cloned human...
7 January 2006 - by BioNews 
An investigation into the work of South Korean stem cell scientist Woo Suk Hwang and his team has concluded that they did not create any cloned embryo stem (ES) cell-lines genetically-matched to patients, as reported in their much-feted Science paper of last year. The revelations have sent shockwaves through the...
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...
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