Disgraced Embryonic Stem Cell Researcher Flees to Thailand to Work

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 18, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 18,

Seoul, South Korea (LifeNews.com) — Disgraced embryonic stem cell research scientist Hwang Woo-suk has fled to Thailand to continue his cloning work after faking his research in prominent journal articles. Hwang is still under investigation for allegedly misusing governmental and public funds and violating bioethics laws.

Hwang fled to Thailand to continue his animal cloning projects that he hopes will someday yield treatments for various diseases.

That he moved wasn’t a surprise.

After Hwang became the international laughingstock of the scientific community when his embryonic stem cell research was found to be completely fraudulent, South Korea banned him from doing human cloning work there or research involving human eggs.

Park Se-Pill, a fellow cloning scientist, told the French Press Agency that "Hwang and his team moved into Thailand to continue with their study free from ethical controversy over their research here."

Hwang’s former lawyer, Lee Geon-Haeng, confirmed the researcher and colleagues had been in Thailand the past two months.

Hwang tried making a quiet comeback in a new cloning lab he set up 35 miles south of Seoul in Yongin where some of his former Seoul National University research team members were helping him.

But he moved to Thailand to continue animal cloning research as well as working on the kind of animal-human hybrids that British researchers are trying to get permission to make. South Korea prohibits such research.

The lab has been bankrolled by Hwang’s friends and the legion of supporters in South Korea that continue to back the embattled scientist despite his problems.

Those backers, ignoring the faked research and allegations that Hwang pressured two junior scientists to donate their eggs for his studies, claim the South Korean government is unfairly persecuting the scientist.

The faked research was a big step backwards for embryonic stem cell research.

Hwang and his team wrote papers saying they had been able to use human cloning techniques to create human embryos. The success would have provided scientists with more embryonic stem cells to use in studies, though it would mean the destruction of human life.

The papers also claimed Hwang’s team was able to clone patient-specific embryonic stem cells that would overcome the rejection issues where a patient’s immune system refuses to accept the cells for treatment.

Both claims turned out to be false and it has been a painful reality check for the controversial science.

"In terms of the science, it has really taken us back to square one," Dr. Stephen Minger, a stem cell researcher from King College London, told the BBC. "Nobody has got close to doing what Dr. Hwang claimed to have done."

Minger fears that embryonic stem cell science won’t any major progress for years to come because there is a lack of human eggs to use in research and obtaining them from women poses numerous ethical problems.