Inside the Korean Cloning Lab
Time: May 30, 2005
While stem cell research has been limited in the United States by President Bush, Asian countries have been increasing research, greatly surpassing US knowledge. South Korea currently leads stem cell research, under the leadership of Woo Suk Hwang. Hwang and his team of scientists have created 11 human stem-cell lines that are perfectly matched to patients, which is beyond what any lab has ever accomplished.
South Korean progress has been noted with diverse replies. President Bush immediately denounced the advance. The Congress, however, hopes to pass a bill to lift stem-cell research in the US, which Bush said he would veto. Both American and English scientists believe that such an advance is astonishing, beyond anything that researchers had hoped for.
The astounding aspect of this Korean progress is not just the result, but also the method with which the Koreans used. The process used is called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). 15 months ago, Hwang's research team managed to create a single pair of stem cells, but had to use 242 eggs in the process. Now, Hwang's lab was able to create 11 stem-cell liens with 17 eggs each. Such efficiency astounds even the best scientists in the US, high praise coming from the likes of Harvard University.
Hwang also believes that stem cell production must be handled naturally, and must be infused with "the human spirit.
" The lab manipulates cells less than American labs, letting them grow on their own. While Americans use machines to squeeze the nucleus out of the cell, an important part of stem cell production, Hwang's researchers gently squeeze the nucleus out themselves. Hwang also has one researcher stay through the night with the cells, in order to show respect for human life. The lab avoids words such as "cloning," preferring to call the process "nuclear transfer." Hwang has made it clear that he believes reproductive cloning is immoral, and hopes only to use stem cells in finding a cure for diseases.
One has to admire the precision and care that the South Koreans use in their labs. Although the American government may not condone such advances in stem cell research in the US, it is impossible to deny the great accomplishment that the Koreans have reached. With such advances, it is likely that stem cells can one day be used to solve unanswered questions about the human body.