After the decision of the United States to remove the ban preventing stem cell researchers from using public funding for experiments, legislators in South Korea have been put under pressure by scientists who have been aspiring to do experiments on stem cells from cloned human embryos.
Up until a few weeks ago the National Bioethics Committee continued to postpone a decision on the matter, but now thanks to the American president, it is increasingly probable that at most, by the end of April, researchers of the Cha Medical Institute of Seoul will be able to resume experiments on stem cells generated by cloned human embryos.
In Korea, research on cloned human embryos was banned in 2006, when the discoveries of Hwang Woo-Suk, a Korean professor who became famous for his research in the field, were found to be fraudulent. But researchers of the Cha Medical Institute have always considered the government’s decision to be short-sighted, believing that the use of sophisticated technology is crucial to find the best cures for diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes, and spinal and cardiovascular diseases.
Embryonic stem cells research would allow researchers to develop specific treatments for single patients and reduce problems like post-transplant rejections. However, the destruction of human embryos necessary to perfect the cloning process and the ethical debate in which the principle of cloning is trapped, make choices in this field particularly difficult.