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Korean Research Team Patents Stem Cell Technology

Posted October. 18, 2005 06:51,   


A Korean research team has received a U.S. patent for technology which helps produce human embryonic stem cells with frozen blastodisk embryonic buds, which are abandoned after being used in fertility therapy.

Dr. Park Se-pil and his staff at the Maria Bioengineering institute announced on October 17 that they obtained a U.S. patent for technology that produces human embryonic stem cells with frozen blastodisk embryonic buds.

This comes four years after Park’s team applied for a domestic and international patent in 2001. They have not obtained the patent in Korea yet.

This is the third U.S. patent related to embryonic stem cells since a research team at the University of Wisconsin in the U.S. and an Australia-Singapore joint research team produced embryonic stem cells with frozen embryos at an early stage, and fresh embryos, respectively. However, this is the first patent for technology using frozen blastodisk embryonic buds in the world.

The methods to cultivate embryonic stem cells through cloning somatic cells which Hwang Woo-suk, a chair-professor at Seoul National University, established, have not been patented in the U.S., either.

This research may minimize the ethical controversy surrounding embryonic stem cell research since it uses remnants of frozen blastodisk embryonic buds that are five years old since fertilization, and would be disposed of otherwise.

Bioethics law, which took effect this year, stipulates that remnant embryos which have been frozen for the purpose of fertility therapy and become five years old can be used for stem cell research with the consent of patients.

The patent Hwang’s research team obtained includes 10 detailed technologies such as a thawing technique, an external cultivation system, and an immune resection using a special antihuman lymphocyte serum.

Park explained that they were able to obtain the patent by reducing the loss of embryos and increasing the chance of producing embryonic stem cells by five times.

Because the patent secures the ownership of the embryonic stem cell technology, it could generate a huge amount of added value once it enters into the stage of treating diseases.

Park’s team explained that they gained the patent in the U.S. last July, but didn’t reveal the fact until the patent letter arrived in Korea in accordance with custom.

Hee-Kyung Kim susanna@donga.com