The National Bioethics Committee tried yesterday to agree on the details of ethical guidelines for creating stem cells by combining the nucleus of a somatic cell with the shell of an ovum. The technique was described by Dr. Hwang Woo-suk in his now-discredited paper on patient-specific stem-cell cloning. The committee postponed any decision, though, doubtful of whether the technique should be allowed at all.
“Since Dr. Hwang’s article on somatic cell transplants was proven to be fabricated, questions were raised about whether it would be realistic to write detailed clauses on a research technique that did not exist,” said Cho Han-ik, the vice chairman of the committee.
The committee had planned to debate the details of standards for egg donations, but dropped plans to do so. “Thousands of eggs were used in the research. If we allowed the technique, researchers having trouble getting eggs in other countries might start coming to Korea, which could create problems for the protection of Korean women,” he added. “We decided to discuss the fundamental question of whether to allow the research at all.”
Separately, the committed voted to forbid DNA tests for Alzheimer’s disease and obesity in most cases. It said those tests were not scientifically proven to be of value. Genetic tests for obesity would be banned completely, but those for Alzheimer’s would be allowed for adults at a physician’s request. It also added new standards for institutional scientific review boards.
by Kim Jung-soo, Wohn Dong-hee for JoongAng Daily