Schatten May Have Stolen Stem Cell Research Technology From Hwang

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 6, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Schatten May Have Stolen Stem Cell Research Technology From Hwang Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 6, 2006

Seoul, South Korea ( — A South Korea television station that uncovered the embryonic stem cell research fraud there is alleging that University of Pittsburgh scientist Gerald Schatten stole cloning and stem cell research technology from Hwang Woo-suk, leader of the research team.

Broadcaster KBS made the allegation in the latest investigation journalism program it produced.

KBS producer Moon Hyong-ryeol released the script of the program Thursday, though it has not yet aired.

The program says Schatten, a former member of Hwang’s team, stole cloning technology that Hwang’s team developed for use in his own efforts to obtain American patents for the research.

"Schatten applied for patents on … in the United States for a technology needed for nuclear transfer of animal somatic cells, about nine months ahead of Hwang,” Moon said, according to a Korea Times report.

" Schatten added the technique of Hwang’s team of gently squeezing out nuclear contents from eggs in the process of cloning to its patent lineup,” he added.

Moon told the Times that South Korea is required to ask the U.S. government not to issue the patent for the cloning technology since technically it belongs to Hwang’s team.

In April 2004, Schatten applied for a U.S. patent for the process of cloning human embryos and embryonic stem cells without crediting his former research partners. The application is still pending.

According to a Pittsburgh Tribune Review article, Schatten and fellow scientists Calvin Simerly and Christopher Navara say their methods could make human cloning "a practical procedure," the application says. The methods could also be used to create embryonic stem cells.

Hwang’s team filed for an international patent for the technology in December 2004 and Schatten is not listed on that patent.

The Korea Times reported that Moon decided to release the text of the script for the program instead of airing it, citing the potential for lawsuits. He added that the program would be available for download on the television station’s web site.

The program also claimed that at least one line of the patient-specific embryonic stem cells that were supposedly cloned may have actually been cloned. A Seoul National University report said the cells may have been cloned but were not patient-specific matches.

Embryonic stem cell research is nowhere close to helping human patients because it still faces immune system rejection issues in animals.