Human Exceptionalism

South Korean Cloning Scandal Continues to Grow

I have been of the opinion that questions raised about Woo-Suk Hwang’s human cloning success were probably overblown. But now I am not so sure. This story from the Korea Herald reports that calls to independently retest the embryonic stem cells purportedly derived by Hwang from creating cloned embryos and destroying them are being resisted. Hwang’s colleagues are refusing retesting on the dubious grounds that previous independent testing had too many errors! In other words, we are to merely accept their word for it, even though Hwang lied over an extended period about how the eggs for cloning were procured. There goes the Nobel Prize.

Here are a few really damaging parts of the story:

“A news magazine show ‘PD Notebook’ suggested that the cells may be fraudulent, saying one of the five customized stem cells provided to it by Hwang’s team did not match the original somatic cell taken from a patient.”

“PD Notebook said the other four cells [tested] were impossible to read. Experts alleged the reason the cells were not readable was that they may have been contaminated by fixing fluid containing the cells”

And get this:

“Another of Hwang’s associates also said the authenticity of its patient-specific stem cells will be only proven when it comes up with scientific achievements using the groundbreaking cells. Lee Byeong-chun said, “The cells will be naturally verified after several years when other scientists will reproduce the work and we will come up with follow-up research achievements.”

To paraphrase Shakespeare, something smells rotten in the state of South Korea. If those cloned embryonic stem cells are not authentic, it will be one of the biggest scandals in the history of science.

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