South Korea Stem Cell Research Program Flooded With Applications

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 7, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Korea Stem Cell Research Program Flooded With Applications Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 7, 2005

Seoul, South Korea ( — Human cloning researchers in South Korea have been flooded with thousands of requests to participate in a new stem cell research program aimed at helping patients with Parkinson’s disease or spinal cord damage.

The day registration for the program opened, 3,000 people signed up and the applications continue to come in heavily even though only 100 applicants will be chosen to participate in the clinical trials.

Those chosen will be subjected to test experiments whereby scientists collect stem cells from the patients and clone them. The patients will then begin stem-cell therapies.

The research project, headed by Ahn Cu-rie of the Seoul National University’s Medical School, builds upon work by cloning pioneer Dr. Hwang Woo-suk, and will be conducted at 9 separate research facilities based in South Korea and abroad.

"About 100 patients suffering from neurological illnesses including spinal cord damage and Parkinson’s disease will be selected," Cu-rie said.
Patients will be chosen according to the extent of their illness or damage, how long ago their symptoms or injuries began, and whether or not they are likely going to benefit from the therapies.

Once cloned, the stem cells will be used in a series of tests on primate to determine if they will be useful. Patients will then begin their own therapies.

Those who don’t get picked to participate will get a phone call explaining why. Each patient must be approved by an ethics board.

Adult stem cell research has already proven successful in treating patients with spinal cord injuries.

Korean scientists have used umbilical cord blood stem cells to restore feeling and mobility to a spinal cord injury patient, according to a report published in Cythotherapy.

The patient is a woman who has been paraplegic from an accident for more than 19 years. She had surgery and also an infusion of umbilical cord blood stem cells.

Not only did the patient regain feeling, but "41 days after [stem cell] transplantation" testing "also showed regeneration of the spinal cord at the injured cite" and below it.