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Committee again sidesteps cloning research bid

Feb 06,2009
At a closed meeting yesterday, the National Bioethics Committee of the Health Ministry again deferred a decision on whether to approve Cha General Hospital’s plan to research human embryonic cloning. When the hospital hands in an improved plan, the committee will review it again, officials said.

The hospital’s request for approval attracted media attention because it would have been the first such research approved by the government since it was suspended in 2006 following revelation that scientist Hwang Woo-suk had fabricated stem cell research data.

Last August, the committee rejected a similar request by Hwang, who continues his research at Suam Biotechnology Institute. Hwang was dismissed by Seoul National University after he admitted his deception.

The committee said the hospital needs to modify the title of its research to avoid potential excessive expectations, to minimize ethical issues and to reconsider ways to reduce the use of ova in the research.

Chung Hyung-min, a senior researcher at Cha General Hospital, submitted a plan in March 2008 to develop a human embryonic stem cell line derived from a cloned blastocyst. He would use the line to study therapies for Parkinson’s disease, stroke, spinal injury, diabetes, cardiac failure and musculoskeletal problems. The committee has put off deciding on the matter several times since. Chung is also a professor at the College of Medicine of Pochon Cha University.

Cloning researchers asked the government to allow them to resume human embryonic cloning on the grounds that two similar research projects are under way in Britain and that American President Barack Obama mentioned allowing the use of federal funds for similar research.

Under Korean bioethics laws, human embryonic cloning is only allowed for therapeutic research on rare and incurable diseases. All related research institutions need approval from the Minister for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs.


By Limb Jae-un Staff Reporter [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]


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