by Steven Ertelt
November 23, 2005
Seoul, South Korea (LifeNews.com) — A television station in South Korea has turned up more evidence that human cloning scientists there have violated ethics considerations. Embryonic stem cell research pioneer Hwang Woo-Suk is accused of using eggs in research donated by a junior scientists on his team.
Another team member has announced that he purchased eggs donated from twenty women and donated them to Hwang for research.
On Tuesday, the Seoul-based MBC television channel disclosed medical records and testimony from witnesses that it said shows that human eggs included some given by at least one of Hwang’s junior researchers.
In an interview with MBC, Hwang admitted junior scientists approached him about donating their eggs for his embryonic stem cell research experiments. But he claims he persuaded them not to do so.
"I was very moved," he told MBC. "But in fear of possible misunderstanding, I persuaded them on several occasions it was better to work with what we have even if there weren’t enough [eggs]."
However, he admitted he’s not sure if the researchers followed his advice and his office plans an official statement Thursday on the matter.
Meanwhile, an oversight committee at Seoul National University found that the two "voluntarily" donated eggs were used to fill a shortage of ova for the team’s research. The panel says Hwang may have known about the donations.
IRB, a committee set up to oversee the procurement of human eggs used in producing stem cells, is scheduled to announce the result of its investigation into Hwang and his members today.
On Monday, a member of Hwang’s team said that about 20 women had indeed been paid 1.5 million won ($1450) each for egg donation. However, Sung Il Roh, of the MizMedi Hospital in Seoul, said Hwang had no knowledge of this.
The payments were made in late 2002 or 2003 and were not illegal in South Korea at that time. In January 2005, the country enacted a law banning the commercial trading of human eggs.
Last week, the controversies, first exposed in the scientific journals Nature and Science, prompted Gerald Schatten, from the University of Pittsburgh, to end his involvement with Hwang. Schatten said he now believes ethical rules were broken and that he was misled over the issue.
Schatten was to head Hwang’s international stem cell bank and several research firms and university research teams have said they will not participate in the stem cell bank now.