Congress Can Give Research A Boost Without Supporting The Misuse Of Human Embryos
For the past few years many of the world's leading scientists have promoted so-called therapeutic cloning as the most promising way to produce clinically useful, genetically tailored, biologically versatile stem cells. That is why claims by a team of South Korean researchers -- one in 2004 that the first cloned human embryo had been produced, then another in 2005 that the process of producing embryonic stem cell lines from cloned embryos could be done routinely and efficiently -- were hailed as a watershed.
Hwang Woo Suk, the lead researcher, became an international celebrity. The best American scientists traveled to Seoul to observe his laboratory and study his techniques. Hwang called his work "holy, pure and genuine."
But then the world discovered that it was all a scandalous fraud. Last November, we learned that Hwang had used eggs procured from junior researchers in his own lab -- a violation of the Helsinki Declaration that governs medical research -- and then lied to cover it up. His partner, Roh Sung Il, paid "volunteers" for additional eggs and forced them to lie about it on their consent forms. Then, in a succession of astonishing revelations, it became clear that the published data had been fabricated. Apparently no cloned human embryos were ever produced; no embryonic stem cells were ever created.
Of course, some dismiss the South Korean fraud as the work of a few bad scientific apples and even cite such errant behavior as a reason for American researchers to create and destroy cloned embryos for themselves. Harvard University recently approved research cloning, and some states have set aside public money for such experiments. The scientific argument, made with great hype, remains the same: If you want useful stem cells, you need to create and destroy cloned human embryos.
But this is exactly the wrong lesson to draw from the South Korean scandal . . .
Read the entire article on the Washington Post website (new window will open).