SEOUL, May 17 (Korea Bizwire) – It has been seven years since Korean stem cell research came to a full stop following controversy surrounding projects led by Dr. Hwang Woo-suk. However, it is expected that embryonic stem cell research will resume in the near future.
Embryonic stem cells are cells extracted from the embryonic stage of cellular differentiation with the potential to develop into all other cells in the body. The research, therefore, can provide a stepping-stone to developing new cures and therapies.
The National Bioethics Committee (NBC) revealed that it has granted the conditional approval for Cha Hospital’s research plans on embryonic somatic cell cloning. The research is aimed at discovering cures for yet incurable diseases such as cerebral infarction and optic nerve damage by using embryonic stem cells. The team submitted plans to use 600 female eggs over a period of five years.
However, the NBC attached the following conditions to its approval: the team must abide by the law in the extraction of female eggs and somatic cells; it must operate its own internal bioethics council; and it must establish a monitoring system to oversee the research’s potential misuse in human cloning. The team is only permitted to use frozen eggs in its research.
Once the Ministry of Health and Welfare gives the final approval, the research will get the green light, and it will be the first time in seven years that somatic cell cloning of stem cells takes place on domestic soil.
Industries related to stem cells are showing positive reactions to the latest progress, and are hopeful at the fact that there is even a slightest potential for future research.
“Domestic stem cell research has been focused on adult stem cells. But embryonic stem cells hold greater potential in terms of medicine development,” said an industry official. “Many other countries are easing research regulations and it seems right that we follow suit.”
Religious and other societal oppositions against using female eggs and embryonic stem cells could be stumbling blocks for future research. Many societies have disapproved of the research, and have been petitioning governments and the science community to stop the life-destroying endeavors.
“Although we still have to wait and see the final approval conditions for the research, we must not overlook the fact that even research embryos are entitled to life’s dignity and value,” said a professor from a domestic university hospital.
By Joseph Shin (firstname.lastname@example.org)