Disgraced South Korean Cloning Scientist May Face Jail Time

By Eliza Strickland | August 24, 2009 9:56 am

cell cultures 3The disgraced South Korean researcher whose breakthrough cloning research was exposed as a fraud in 2005 now faces up to four years in prison. Prosecutors asked for the four-year sentence in court today, where the researcher, Hwang Woo-suk, is standing trial for fraud, misusing $2.25 million in state funds, and violating bioethics laws by illegally buying human eggs for his research. “The people’s disappointment was very serious because their expectation for his stem cell research had been high,” an unidentified prosecutor told the courtroom. He said Hwang tarnished South Korea’s image abroad…. Hwang pleaded for leniency, saying if the court forgives him he is ready to “pour the last of my passion” into research [AP].

Hwang became a national hero to South Korea in 2004, when he claimed to have cloned human embryonic stem cells, a feat that was thought to be impossible because of the complexities of human cells. Embryonic stem cells are of great interest to medical researchers because they can develop into any kind of adult cell, and could theoretically be used to replace malfunctioning cells that cause disease. A year later, Hwang said the team created human embryonic stem cells genetically matched to specific patients — a purported breakthrough that promised a way to withstand rejection by a patient’s immune system [AP]. 

But Hwang’s moment of glory didn’t last long. An investigation team at Seoul National University, where Hwang once worked, said in late 2005 that Hwang’s team deliberately fabricated vital data in the two papers on human embryonic stem cells. It did verify, however, that Hwang’s team produced the world’s first cloned dog, an Afghan hound named Snuppy [Reuters]. Following the investigation Hwang was banned from continuing his research on human embryo cloning, and he formed a company specializing in dog cloning.

Related Content:
80beats: It Is Easier to Clone a Human Than to Blend One With an Animal
80beats: Cloning Makes a Mountain Goat Un-Extinct, But the Newborn Kid Dies
80beats: Will Dog Cloning Become Mainstream as the Price Drops?
80beats: First Commercial Dog Cloning Operation Yields Five Little “Boogers”

Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • http://www.freelinkback.com/ Lisa R. Shaner

    Are you serious? What a loser, Korea should shun him in jail. That weakens and lowers us all as humans.

  • David S. Morris

    Four years in prison seems much. A liar yes, but a serious felon, not quite. I think the total disgrace from the science establishment and a heavy fine on that dog cloning business (probably unusually lucrative) would atleast give some of that 2.25 milllion back.

  • http://gametopiaplanitia.blogspot.com Raymond

    I think it’s a bit harsh to treat this as a criminal case. He is definitely responsible financially to those who gave him the grants but what he did should not be a crime, it should be a civil matter. But the Korean legal system is so fubar’d that they probably don’t distinguish well between the two. The words, presidence and consistency, do not exist in their dictionaries.

  • Tom Hampton

    Woo-suk,you suck.The difference between good science and bad science sometimes comes down to cash and impatience-two things his gov’t apparently possesses in ample quantities.This is more about embarassment and losing “the race to discover” than it is about money. He was pressured to produce,so he did.They could have awarded the grants to someone else,why him? Everybody sit down,regroup,and define your vision.Retract the fraud label to save face and move on.This morning I cloned yesterday’s coffee just by adding a little water-is anyone complaining?

  • Ian

    Don’t they eat dogs in Korea? I guess cloning dogs saves people having to ask for seconds.

  • http://www.facekut.com/blog.php?user=riadanhong&blogentry_id=478 tony

    Hola. This is stimulating article, dude. Danke. However, I have weird situation with the rss channel. I havent got a clue I am unable to read it. Is there anyone at all getting same rsserror? Thanks

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