Disgraced cloning expert convicted in South Korea


Hwang Woo-suk, 56, once considered a national hero in South Korea for his work on stem cells and for producing the world’s first cloned dog, Snuppy, was cleared of the main charge of fraud but was convicted of embezzling research funds and illegally buying human eggs for his research.
Prosecutors had asked for four years in prison, but Judge Bae Ki-yeol of Seoul Central District Court said Hwang had shown remorse and gave him a suspended sentence, sparing him jail time if he stays out of trouble for three years.
In 2004, Hwang and former colleagues at Seoul National University claimed in a paper published in the journal Science that they had created the world’s first cloned human embryos — and had extracted stem cells from them.
Stem cell research is highly sensitive, and Hwang had been the only South Korean scientist allowed to carry out studies on the master cells that scientists say could lead to revolutionary cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
A year later, Hwang’s team also claimed in the journal that they had created human embryonic stem cells genetically matched to specific patients, a purported breakthrough that promised a way to withstand rejection by a patient’s immune system.
But questions about his claims led to an investigation by a university committee. The committee concluded that the 2004 paper was based on faked data. He was charged later that year of fraud for allegedly accepting some 2 billion won ($2 million) in private donations under false pretenses. He also was accused of embezzling 800 million won (about $800,000) and buying human eggs for research in violation of South Korea’s bioethics laws.

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