South Korea Scientist Will Create Embryonic Stem Cell Bank

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 1, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Korea Scientist Will Create Embryonic Stem Cell Bank Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 1, 2005

Seoul, South Korea ( — The scientist who has created international controversy by cloning human beings to destroy for their stem cells says he wants to set up a worldwide stem cell bank to house the new patient-match embryonic stem cell she’s created.

South Korean cloning scientist Hwang Woo-suk says he hopes the stem cell bank will allow researchers to grow replacement tissue to treat diseases. The bank would consolidate the available embryonic stem cell lines and allow scientists to look for the right type for research needs.

"We hope to open a world stem cell bank, as early as this year, in Korea," Hwang told the Associated Press. "We will start with what we have, offering them to those patients who sincerely want them for the right reasons."

Hwang said he would eventually put the bank under international management but wanted the world to know that South Korea was leading the way in pursuing embryonic stem cell research.

"But, it would mean that South Korea is taking the initiative in fighting human disease," he said.

Despite the creation of the embryonic stem cell bank, the new cells Hwang’s team created are still nowhere close to being able to help treat diseases.

While adult stem cells have already produced dozens of treatments and cures, even the new embryonic stem cells are far away from ever being useful.

The new embryonic stem cells display some of the characteristics of the diseases they are intended to cure. Dr. Gerald Schatten, a University of Pittsburgh scientist who worked with the South Korean team, admitted that they may will likely need to be manipulated further before they could be used.

Though the new cells don’t rely on mouse feeder cells to grow, since they are obtained from cloned humans, they still had animal cell components injected into them.

"Scientists must also find a way to remove the remaining animal components from the laboratory procedures," they said in a report on their discovery scheduled to be printed in the journal Science on Friday.

Even Hwang admitted "we have to open so many doors before human trials.”

Hwang also rebutted claims that he is creating and destroying human life in his cloning work.

"What we are doing is not creating embryos. An embryo, basically supposes a birth of a life. But we have no intention or goals whatsoever to create life," said Hwang. "When the genetic material is removed from human egg, it becomes a vacant egg shell, I would like to call it that."

"I firmly reject the term human cloning," Hwang said. "This is a scientific activity called somatic nuclear cell transfer," he previously told Reuters.

However, according to the unanimous conclusion of the President’s Council on Bioethics, the act of human SCNT creates a "cloned human embryo."

Moreover, as the Council concluded, "The same activity [SCNT] may be undertaken for purposes of producing children or for purposes of scientific and medical investigation and use."

In SCNT, the nucleus of an unfertilized egg is removed and replaced with the nucleus of a body cell. The cell that results is then stimulated to divide and form an embryo of about 150 cells. Embryonic stem cells are extracted from the human embryo, and the human embryo is destroyed.