Adult Stem Cell Therapy Blog

Woo-suks ethical blunder

Monday, November 21, 2005 - Stem Cell Guru

What other ethical issues might this Korean embyronic stem cell research team be turning a blind eye to?

Hwang’s Stem Cell Team Paid for Eggs

By Kim Tae-gyuStaff Reporter

One of main members of Korean stem cell teams led by professor Hwang Woo-suk at Seoul National University Monday confessed he paid fees for collecting eggs to extract cloned human stem cell lines.

Roh Sung-il, head of infertility clinic Mizmedi Women’s Hospital in Seoul, said he paid roughly 1.5 million won ($1,400) per donor to get double-figure eggs and provided them to Hwang.
However, he refused to comment on the most controversial issue whether or not junior researchers at Hwang’s lab donated their eggs.

``Back a couple of years ago, it was really hard to obtain eggs and I provided about 1.5 million won to more than 20 women for their eggs, which went to Hwang’s team,’’ Roh said.
He added the fee is just compensation for their inconvenience of being hospitalized and getting shots of hormone injection and the opportunity cost of having to rest due to the painstaking 15-day operations.

``I thought about 100,000 won would be a proper daily fee. But I made the decision on my own without the knowledge of Hwang. He would get to know things only after announcing cloned human stem cells in early 2004,’’ Roh said.

Currently, commercial trading of eggs is strictly prohibited under the bioethics law, which went into effect earlier this year. But up until last year such deals were not unlawful due to the lack of regulations.

Hwang stole the global show in Feb. 2004 when the U.S. journal Science featured his team cloning human embryos and harvesting a stem cell batch from it for the first time in history.
The exploit is anticipated to open the door to therapeutic cloning, or a cell therapy that can cure many degenerative diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

For the groundbreaking experiment, Hwang used 242 eggs from 16 women and Roh was responsible for providing most of them, mainly through paid procurement.

Yet, he flatly denied whirling rumors that Hwang’s team converted eggs obtained for artificial insemination to the research or that they failed to explain the risks of egg procurement to donors.

In particular, he refused to comment on the hot-button issue, the suspicion that two of Hwang’s underlings provided eggs. If true, it would hurt the integrity of overall stem cell research in Seoul.

``I am a doctor. So I cannot say anything about the donors. If I do so, I will risk criminal charges. But I can confirm Hwang himself brought some donors who were willing to give eggs without getting any costs,’’ he said.

Despite the disputes, Korean people seem to continue to back Hwang’s side as women from all walks of life yesterday set up a private foundation to donate eggs for research.

``We plan to encourage women willing to donate eggs at a time when researchers suffer from a lack of eggs due to legal problems,'' said a participant in the foundation.

mailto:"" 11-21-2005 17:21


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