Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Friday, November 25, 2005

Stem cell ethics

This is not what the field needs:
Hwang Woo-suk, one of the world's leading stem cell experts whose South Korean team cloned the first human embryo and created the first cloned dog, publicly apologized yesterday for ethical breaches at his lab and said he would resign from all his official posts.
Apparently, he lied about the source of some of the embryos his lab worked on: some came from women paid for donating and some from members of his research team. He had previously denied that either of these things had happened.

I have no inside information, but I suspect there are some other problems with the work of this team. Their results have been controversial and hard to replicate, now the group's leader is stepping down over what might be considered signficiant but not overwhelming ethical issues. Apparently, neither paying women nor researchers themselves donating were clearly proscribed at the time of the donations.

Reading between the lines of this
But earlier this month, Pitt researcher Gerald Schatten said he was pulling out of his association with Dr. Hwang, citing concerns about the way the group had obtained human eggs -- whose difficult procurement is typically one of the most vexing obstacles to large-scale stem cell research. Mr. Schatten, a medical school professor, had been for more than a year the prime American stem cell scientist working with Dr. Hwang
I would not be surprised to learn soon that there are significant questons about the accuracy of the South Koreans data.

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