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Research on Cloned Embryos of Somatic Cells to be Permitted With Limits

Research on Cloned Embryos of Somatic Cells to be Permitted With Limits

Posted March. 24, 2007 09:18,   


Research on cloned embryos of somatic cells will be resumed. It had been banned since the scandal over thesis fabrication by Hwang Woo-suk, a former professor of Seoul National University.

The National Bioethics Advisory Committee held its first conference of 2007 at the Korea Press Center in Taepyeongno, Jung-gu, Seoul on March 23, and carried out a vote on a "the bill of limited permission" and a “temporary ban" on research on cloned embryos of somatic cells, the result of which led to the passing of the bill of limited permission with 12 out of 13 votes.

Accordingly, research on cloned embryos can be resumed, provided that the ova used for the research are either those planned to be wasted due to failures in external fertilization, or are remaining ova extracted from removed ovaries or ovaries removed due to diseases.

The committee consists of 14 members (seven from the bioethics field, seven from the scientific field) and seven government officials. Seven committee members from the bioethics field did not take part in this vote. Those in the bioethics field, who are pushing for a temporary ban, have asserted that research on cloned embryos should be allowed only after the validity is tested through sufficient animal testing (experiments where somatic animal cells are transferred into the ovaries of animals), and basic technology is accumulated through research into embryonic stem cells of fertilized eggs.

The committee held up the realistic theory provided by the scientific field by enforcing the vote. The science field has been asserting that it was unacceptable that the scandal concerning Hwang should fully suspend domestic research on stem cells for more than a year leading to the deterioration of the industry. Though limited, researchers of stem cells are pleased with the result that came out in favor of resuming research.

An embryonic stem cell extracted from cloned embryo of a somatic cell has the capability to fractionize into all the cells in the human body, and thus can be utilized for curing incurable diseases and for developing new medicines. Countries around the world are competing fiercely in order to conduct research on embryonic stem cells.

But opinions are being raised that this decision is no different from a ban, despite its appearance as permission.

Ova can stay alive for 2-3 days without being fertilized once they are out of the human body. In infertility treatments, at least one day is taken to extract ova and to confirm fertilization. Professor Park Se-pil at Stem Cell Research Institute of Cheju National University says, “Most of the ova that failed in fertilization are nearly dead."

Jeong Hyeong-min, the president of the CHA Stem Cell Institute, explained, “Most of the women who come to remove ovaries either have serious diseases or are in their menopause years. Their ovaries either do not contain ova or have ones with problems such as chromosome abnormalities."

Currently 4 countries, namely the U.S., the Great Britain, Spain and China, officially permit research on cloned embryos of somatic cells, and seven research institutions (3 in the U.S, 2 in the Great Britain, 1 in Spain and 1 in China) are competing among themselves.

“These countries have regulations concerning steps taken for the donation of ova and transparency on research procedures, but don’t specify which ova should be used. Practical research can only become active when it is allowed to use healthy ova donated through legitimate ways for use in research," said Jeong.

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