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Stem Cell Pioneer Hwang Woo-suk to Use Injectable Robot to Check Stem-cell Transplants

Stem Cell Pioneer Hwang Woo-suk to Use Injectable Robot to Check Stem-cell Transplants

Posted September. 24, 2005 07:12,   


Professor Hwang Woo-suk once said, “Without marrying biotechnology (BT) with information technology (IT), it is difficult to put research results to practical use with BT alone.”

What would happen if the world-renowned Professor Hwang’s research met IT?

The research of Professor Hwang’s team is mainly focused on two fields: stem cells and cloned pigs. Both have been raising expectations that they will greatly contribute to treatments for incurable diseases.

Incurable disease treatments using stem cells will be tried in the following manner: genes of patients’ body cells will be modified and the cells will be cloned; stem cells will be derived from cloned body cells and will be developed into pancreas cells or immune cells; and then those cells will be transplanted into patients’ bodies.

Research on cloned pigs is aimed at producing organs that will be transplanted into patients’ bodies. Pig genes have to be modified so that transplanted organs will not trigger any immune rejection responses inside patients’ bodies.

For both research fields, it is very critical to check for side-effects after stem cells or pig organs are transplanted into human bodies. That is the job of IT.

Professor Hwang explained, “With BT alone, we cannot predict which side-effects will be triggered by transplants of stem cells or pig organs, and when. We plan to put miniature IT equipment inside a patient’s body and check his or her health in real time.”

A subminiature robot will move through blood vessels to spots that need to be treated. There, the robot will check whether transplanted stem cells or pig organs would function properly and transmit the results of the check to the patient’s doctor in real time.

The doctor can remotely control the robot to administer drugs or incise.

Professor Hwang said with conviction, “By linking IT to BT, we will be able to treat incurable diseases such as hereditary diabetes and AIDS using stem cells in the near future.”

Commenting on Professor Hwang’s predictions, President Hwang, the IT guru, said, “Korea is well positioned in this regard, because it has both advanced semi-conductor industry and telecommunications technology. The former stores information and the latter conveys information.” He went on to predict, “It will take some time before we will be able to conduct complicated treatments. However, since we are already equipped with basic infrastructure, it won’t be in the distant future.”

Suk-Min Hong smhong@donga.com wolfkim@donga.com