South Korea World Stem Cell Hub to Focus on Adult Stem Cell Research Now

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 27, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Korea World Stem Cell Hub to Focus on Adult Stem Cell Research Now Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 27, 2006

Seoul, South Korea ( — The international hub Hwang Woo-suk and his team envisioned to provide a home for embryonic stem cells for scientists to use in studies never got off the ground because of the international scandal surrounding the teams falsified embryonic stem cell research.

Now, the hub will be turned into a gene therapy clinic that will focus on adult stem cells instead.

The new clinic will be located at Seoul National University, where Hwang’s team was based, and will use much of the equipment that was meant for the international hub.

"Early last month, we opened a gene therapy clinic inside our hospital where the World Stem Cell Hub was located,” Lim Jong-pil, spokesman for SNU told the Korean Times newspaper.

"Prof. Heo Dae-seog was appointed to take charge of the facility on March 13 and a half dozen professors are now helping him," Lim added.

After SNU determined that the two papers Hwang’s team published — claiming to have cloned a human embryo and created patient-specific embryonic stem cells — were faked, the worldwide stem cell cub plans collapsed.

University of Pittsburgh scientist Gerald Schatten, a top Hwang partner, was slated to head up the hub but he quit Hwang’s team in November when details surfaced that he had coerced women into donating their human eggs for research.

The scandal set back embryonic stem cell research by years because it is now no closer than before in being ready to treat humans. As a result, Lim said the new center will focus on adult stem cells, which have already proven useful in coming up with dozens of treatments for various diseases and conditions.

"Our direct goal is to study a biological mechanism customized for a patient. Toward that end, priorities would be put on adult stem cells or insulin-secreting cells,” Heo told the Seoul newspaper.

He indicated the lab may later work with embryonic stem cells, but after seeing whether the controversial cells ever have a clinical application.