Archive for STEM
Working days, nights and weekends, with criminal charges hanging over his head, disgraced stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk is trying to climb the steep hill to rehabilitation. Assisted by a team of 30 in a private lab south of Seoul, he is working on cloning animal embryos. A colleague told AP that he dreams of working with cloned human embryos again. “There are many good research results that we want to boast about,” she says.However, editors of leading journals are cautious. “Any submission form Dr Hwang would take into consideration the irreparable harm that his previous misconduct has inflicted on the scientific enterprise,” says Monica Bradford, executive editor of Science, one of the journals duped by the Korean. And Curt Civin, editor of Stem Cells, who was also a victim of his fraud, says that he would worry about recidivism.
Somewhat surprisingly, Harvard researcher George Daley told an international meeting of stem cell scientists in Australia recently that Hwang’s research was genuinely original. He had been the first to create stem cell lines from a parthenote, an activated, unfertilised egg. ~ AP, Jun 21; Nature Reports Stem Cells blog, Jun 18
An American scientist has announced that he has been able to perform therapeutic cloning with a rhesus monkey. If this is confirmed, it would be first time that anyone has successfully cloned a primate. The news, from the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, in Cairns, Australia, excited scientists who believe that this foreshadows the possibility of human cloning. ~ news.com.au, Jun 19
There was excitement, too, on Capitol Hill, in Washington DC, over the stunning new research, which appeared in the journal Nature just before the House of Representatives voted to loosen restrictions imposed by President Bush on funding for embryonic stem cell research. In any case it came too late to influence the passage of the bill, which failed to get the numbers required to override the expected presidential veto.Was it just a coincidence? Some legislators thought not. “It is ironic that every time we vote on this legislation, all of a sudden there is a major scientific discovery that basically says, ‘You don’t have to do stem cell research,'” says Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel. “Convenient timing,” said bioethicist Arthur Caplan.
However, the Washington Post consulted experts on probability. Happenstance — or an underhanded plot to sink the bill? Skulduggery by American opponents of stem cell research? By rival British researchers bent on world domination? The experts backed coincidence. “Papers are coming out about embryonic stem cells so regularly that the odds are going to be high that some will come out when Congress is voting on them,” says David Ropeik, a Harvard expert in risk assessment. ~ Washington Post, Jun 10
The South Korean government plans to invest nearly half a billion dollars into gaining pole position in global embryonic stem cell research. After the worst case of fake research in living memory, more scandal is not what it needs. But that is what is happening. As reported in last week’s BioEdge, Kwang Yul Cha, a Korean who is a front-runner to succeed Hwang Woo-suk as his nation’s premier stem cell researcher, is embroiled in a plagiarism scandal.
Without going into all the claims and counter claims, the current situation is as follows. Dr Lee is now facing criminal copyright infringement charges in Korea. Dr Cha’s lawyers have accused Fertility and Sterility of defamation. The Korea journal has demanded that the American journal issue a retraction on the ground of duplicate publication. The CHA group has described Dr Kim as a bit player in the research whose email address was lost after he moved to Singapore.
The meat in the sandwich is Kwang Soo Kim, a Harvard professor who had joined the CHA research group only a short time before the scandal broke. He now has the unenviable task of both defending his colleagues and conducting his own campaign for Western standards of publication in Korea. If the issue cannot be smoothed over, a US$2.6 million research grant which CHA received from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is at risk.
Will a clear moral emerge from this tangled tale of cultural clashes, deceit, national pride and laboratory power plays? None, perhaps, except that the full spectrum of human failings is hard-wired into embryonic stem cell research and that professional and government regulators need to take this into account. ~ BMJ, Apr 7
Sir Magdi said the possibility of growing an entire heart was “an ambitious project but not impossible”. “If you wanted me to guess, I’d say ten years,” he said. “But experience has shown that progress that is happening nowadays make it possible to achieve milestones in a shorter time. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was sometime sooner than we think.” Daily Mail, Apr 5
Once again, the US Senate will be debating embryonic stem cell research. It will consider two bills this week: one which is nearly the same as a bill vetoed by President Bush last year which will expand and encourage this research. The other is a compromise measure which will foster research on “dead” human embryos or on cells extracted from living embryos without destroying them. It also will support the creation of a stem cell bank for cells extracted from amniotic fluid and placentas.
The looming debate was the occasion for some thoughtful commentary from both sides of the debate. Harvard professor Michael Sandel, a supporter of destructive embryo research, points out in the Boston Globe that President Bush’s position is inconsistent. If he really does believe that embryos are human persons, surely he ought to seek to ban it completely, not merely deny it federal funding.
And in National Review an opponent, Yuval Levin, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, zeroes in on an inconsistency in the first bill, which was passed last year by the House of Representatives. However, its supporters have now added provisions for funding alternatives such as reprogramming adult cells and deriving stem cells from amniotic fluid. These methods have shown great promise in recent months, probably more than embryonic stem cells. So what is the point of federal funding research for destructive methods “just at the moment when ethical alternatives may be emerging”, he asks. ~ National Review, Apr 9; Boston Globe, Apr 8; Reuters, Apr 9