GENTECH archive


Fwd. Korean genetic cloning issue

>>      [Image] 12-16-98 : Korean milestone in genetic cloning spurs ethics
>>      By Shin Hye-son Staff reporter
>>      Local debate over the ethics of cloning humans is likely to heat up
in earnest as Korean human-cloning technology reaches a crucial stage.
>>      The Kyunghee University Hospital said Monday that a medical
research team at its infertility clinic succeeded in cultivating a human
embryo in its early stage using an unfertilized egg and somatic cell
donated by a woman in her 30s. The woman previously tried to become
pregnant through a test-tube operation, but failed.
>>      It is the first time in Korea and the second in the world that
doctors have succeeded in creating an embryo in the four- cell stage from
the somatic cell of an adult human.
>>      Headed by Drs. Kim Sung-bo and Lee Bo-yon, the research team took
the nucleus of the somatic cell surrounding the egg and substituted it for
the nucleus of the donated egg cell. Then they induced the gene-manipulated
egg to divide just like a fertilized egg.
>>      They confirmed that the egg turned into an embryo with four cells ?
the stage in which it is ready to be implanted on the uterine wall of the
egg's owner where it would continue dividing until it develops into a fetus.
>>      Hospital officials said that the experiment was initially conceived
early this year, but fearful of the social repercussions it would create,
it was not undertaken until last August. The final outcome was obtained
Dec. 11.
>>      Dr. Lee said that his team carried out the test purely for the
purpose of medical research, and not for clinical purposes. They emphasized
that they did not implant the four-cell embryo into the uterus of the egg
>>      Implanting genetically-engineered human embryos is banned in Korea
under a set of regulations adopted in 1993 by the Korea Medical
Association. The scientific breakthrough makes it possible for a human to
be born without the combination of a sperm and an egg. However, in this
case, the fetus would carry the identical genetic structure as the person
of the somatic cell used in the operation, which means that the baby would
be the replica of its mother. Babies born from normal pregnancies are
supposed to inherit half of their genes from fathers and the other half
from mothers.
>>      Using the same technique, researchers at the Roslin Institute in
Scotland recently succeeded in producing a human embryo with a body cell
>>      The institute announced early last year that it had created a lamb
named Dolly, which was a genetic copy of a six-year-old ewe, for the first
time in the world. The Scottish researchers slipped genes taken from the
ewe into unfertilized eggs and used them to try to create pregnancies in
other sheep.
>>      When the sheep Dolly was presented, it set off an international
outcry over the implications of genetic engineering. Similarly, hot debate
is expected to arise in Korea. "Personally I also object to the appearance
of human clones," said Dr. Lee. "But after further research, I believe that
this technology will help the production of replicated organs, which will
be a 100 percent fit for those in need of transplants in the future." Dr.
Kim, head of the research team, also hoped that the use of this technology
would be allowed as far as it does not produce harmful side effects. He
noted that the government needs to set up guidelines on gene-modifying
research activities including human cloning as soon as possible.
>>      However, startled by the prospect of human cloning, a coalition of
ten local civic organizations including the Korean Federation for
Environmental Movement held a rally yesterday at Kyunghee University in
northern Seoul.
>>      The coalition dubbed as "the solidarity for life safety and ethics"
protested the human cloning experiment and called for an immediate stop to
it. "Kyunghee University Hospital's human cloning experiment in the
reckless spirit of scientific inquiry should be halted right away because
it threatens the future of mankind," read a statement issued at the rally.
>>      "Even though the research is aimed at creating organs for those in
need of transplants, the benefit would go to only a few people with a lot
of money. But (when it is misused), the technology could result in a great
mishap to all of mankind," said one protestor. The statement also urged the
government to set up proper regulations on human cloning research.
>>      [Image]