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Another twist…

Disgraced South Korean cloning scientist Hwang strikes back, saying that he did not lie.

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Old Zhou

posted January 2, 2006 at 12:08 pm

From The Korea Times:

“It is certain that a switch was made and experts will be able to see this immediately. An investigation by prosecutors will only take about two days,” he said in an interview with the Beopbo newspaper.
Earlier this month, Hwang filed a complaint with the prosecution, saying Kim Seon-jong, who admitted to duplicating photographs of DNA carried in Hwang’s paper, might have been involved in swapping Hwang’s stem cells with fertilized eggs from MizMedi Hospital.

Translation: “My dog ate my homework.”

Hwang was forced to resign from all public posts after admitting on Nov. 24 that he had violated ethical guidelines by using in his research eggs donated by two female assistants working under him.
But he denied that the female researchers were forced to donate their eggs, saying he was not aware of how exactly the eggs were procured for the experiments.

Translation: “I am arrogant, sexist scum.”

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posted January 2, 2006 at 1:42 pm

He’s lying about lying?

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Fr. Brian Stanley

posted January 2, 2006 at 2:09 pm

I’m trying to remember, how does that phrase go? Let sleeping dogs lie? Let lying dogs sleep? Let cloned dogs lie and sleep. To say nothing of cloned sheep. Are the cloned sheep easier to count? You are getting sleepy….

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reluctant penitent

posted January 2, 2006 at 2:33 pm

I love the NYT headline for their recent Hwang expose:
‘Clone Scientist Relied on Peers and Korean Pride’
In the article no evidence is given that ‘Korean pride’ contributed to the success of this hoax. If it wasn’t for Korean scientists and news media Hwang would never have been exposed. The only causal factor seems to have been the eagerness of Hwang’s WESTERN peers to believe that some evidence had been found to justify their blind faith in the usefulness of this morally hideous research. They were so excited they didn’t bother to ask Hwang to produce any evidence. I’m sure we’ll see sarcastic comments in the HuffPost about the pontiffs of embryonic death instructing the faithful to ignore any research that conflicts with their fundamentalist doctrine.
NYT article here:

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Donna V.

posted January 2, 2006 at 3:43 pm

At the end of the interview Hwang, a believer in Buddhism told Beopbo: “I am trying to make some bows to Buddha everyday, but I will make efforts to make 108 bows a day.” 108 bows is an ascetic practice in Buddhism
Is this the Buddhist equivalent of 10 Hail Marys, 3 Our Fathers, and a Glory Be? Sorry, Hwang, the bows won’t cut it. Repent and give up your replusive research.

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St. Jimbob of the Apokalypse

posted January 2, 2006 at 4:21 pm

While we’re assigning penances, how about some for ‘Catholic’ politicians that lauded the research as a justification of their support , in defiance of Catholic Doctrine?

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Old Zhou

posted January 2, 2006 at 4:26 pm

The 108 bows is very common in Korean Buddhism.
In fact, it was even done in a Catholic parish (hall, not the Church itself) last year.
108 is also the number of beads on the (full) Buddhist mala or “rosary,” representing the 108 human desires or agonies or passions.
Imagine if each “Hail Mary” of the rosary were accompanied by a full prostration, before a crucifix or tabernacle, touching the ground with our “5 points” (knees, elbows and forehead)?

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Donna V.

posted January 2, 2006 at 4:34 pm

Imagine if each “Hail Mary” of the rosary were accompanied by a full prostration, before a crucifix or tabernacle, touching the ground with our “5 points” (knees, elbows and forehead)?
Given the current state of my knees, Zhou, I’d be permanently prostrate before reaching the second decade.

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Old Zhou

posted January 2, 2006 at 5:08 pm

“Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.” (Confucius)
Big legal investigation coming…

The prosecution plans to launch an investigation into cloning expert Hwang Woo-suk of Seoul National University next week to confirm alleged irregularities related to his stem cell research.
Seoul National University President Chung Un-chan said Monday that the university would take strong disciplinary measures against the disgraced scientist over allegations that he faked data on human stem cells reported last May.
Sources said the Hwang could possibly face charges of fraud or embezzlement if it is confirmed that he received government support for his studies based on false achievements.
The prosecution said it plans to start an investigation next week on the reported irregularities stemming from Hwang’s work.
It said investigators are also seeking a travel ban on about 10 key figures who have collaborated with Hwang in creating stem cell lines tailored to individual patients.
Hwang and his former collaborator Kim Sun-jong may face summons sometime during next week.

The probe into Hwang’s case came after the 53-year-old scientist, who offered to resign from his university post last month, filed a complaint to prosecutors that some of the stem cell lines created by his team were replaced by those made at Mizmedi, a claim that the hospital firmly denied.
However, if it is concluded that he had played a direct role in the fabrication of research data, there is a possibility that Hwang could eventually lose his status as plaintiff and be questioned under criminal charges.
Prosecutors are waiting for the conclusion of Seoul National University’s verification process of Hwang’s work. A nine-member investigation panel is currently looking into the issue and plans to announce a final report Jan. 10.
If Hwang’s role in the data fabrication is confirmed, there is a possibility of him being prosecuted on charges of fraud or embezzlement, since his research team had been receiving extensive financial support from the government since the breakthrough discovery in May.
Television broadcaster MBC, which first reported the suspicions surrounding Hwang’s work through its documentary program “PD Notebook’’ last month, plans to air its third scoop regarding ethnical controversies over Hwang’s work.
According to the upcoming report, Hwang’s team used more than 1,600 donated human eggs for his research, a significantly larger proportion than the 125 donated eggs he reported using for his Science paper.
MBC reporters also claim that Hwang coerced his subordinates to donate eggs for his research.
Last month, the university’s fact-finding panel exposed Hwang’s Science work as fraud in the interim report of its probe, saying that it has found no evidence to support his claims that he had cloned 30 human embryos and extracted 11 stem cell lines that were genetically identical to his patients.
The panel said Hwang had faked the research on nine of the stem cell lines. It also said the two remaining cell lines were also fabricated, but it wasn’t clear whether they were faked by Hwang or co-researchers from Mizmedi.
With the credibility of Hwang’s work in crisis, critics are asking why the government financed Hwang’s work while failing to properly monitor it.
Last year, the government spent 1.5 billion won ($1.48 million) to fund the stem cell research activities led by Hwang’s research team and an additional 5 billion won for constructing and operating new lab facilities.
After Hwang’s paper was published in Science in May, the government expanded its financial support.
The Ministry of Science and Technology provided 3 billion won to Hwang’s research team last year and financed 24 billion won in building a new research facility to be completed at the university this year.
The government is also planning to pour additional investment in the World Stem Cell Hub, an international project launched in October for stem cell research.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced plans to spend 15 billion won annually on the hub. Amid the controversies surrounding his work, Hwang stepped down as the head of the hub in November, last year.

Fear of “Hwang-gate” backlash is causing other Korean scientists to lie low.

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Old Zhou

posted January 2, 2006 at 5:32 pm

Here is the Wikipedia entry on Hwang Woo-Suk. From his bio:

Early days
Hwang grew up in a poor mountain town in the central Korean province of South Chungcheong. He worked at a farm to finance his studies when his widowed mother could not earn enough to provide for him and five other siblings. Hwang matriculated at the prestigious Seoul National University after graduating from Daejeon high school. It was later revealed that despite his professors urging that he become a medical doctor, Hwang chose to be a veterinarian. After earning his doctorate, Hwang briefly practiced veterinary medicine, before moving into the field of scientific research. His aim, then, was to create a genetically superior cow. Eventually, he became a full-time researcher at his alma mater, Seoul National University.
Hwang revealed in interviews that he would rise at 4:30 AM after only four hours of sleep and soak in a traditional public bath. Every day, he would turn up at the laboratory at 6 AM and leave at midnight, a daily routine. Hwang would only get to see his wife in bed. He also called her a great cook, though it is not her food that he eats at work. Food dispatch riders habitually deliver food to his laboratory as Hwang and his team would always eat in. As he stated himself, “I work all day long. It is my habit and hobby. I am driven by the quest to find cures for the incurable.” [1]
Hwang once remarked that his team’s weekly work schedule consists of “Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday-Friday-Friday.” His remarks, once seen as a proud statement reflecting a tireless devotion to his research, is now being seen in a different light after his scandal broke out.
Hwang married in 1979 and has two sons. He was a Roman Catholic, but he converted to Buddhism after he visited Jeondeung Temple in Ganghwa-do, a part of Incheon, in 1987. Hwang stated that he meditates daily for forty minutes. He would also occasionally take time off to visit the temple to pray. Hwang also commented on his reverence towards Buddhist monks: “I would have been a monk if I did not become a scientist. I respect their way of life.”

The guy is probably Catholic (another Catholic scientist?), just not “practicing,” unless he made some formal renunciation. His marriage is also probably Catholic. Maybe that is why Archbishop Cheong met with him.

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Gerard E.

posted January 2, 2006 at 5:33 pm

The mother of all scientific trend disasters. Too many accounts of boo hoo hoo rich people and universities won’t fund us. Or- horror of horrors- will set research back years. The tipoff was clearly the University of Pittsburgh scientist who broke with Hwang two months ago. Claimed he was used- shock follows shock. Reason # 2784983498 that God Has A Sense of Humor- that the scandal blew up during the feast of the Son of God’s birth to a virgin. Poor Snuppy. One day you’re top dog, next day just another mutt.

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posted January 2, 2006 at 6:09 pm

This whole thing seems to illustrate the Mark Shea maxim, “what could it hurt?” followed shortly by, “how was I to know?”
Even if one were to accept that cloning is morally acceptable or at least neutral (and of course it’s neither), it seems to me there are plenty of other opportunities for…how shall I put it…the intervention of human error?
Like this particular wingnut and his trusting female assistants, for example.

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Old Zhou

posted January 2, 2006 at 6:25 pm

The Korean Times ran a three part series on Prof. Hwang, called Move Heart of Heaven back in May 2005.
Part I describes how he became Catholic:

…Son of Poor Farmer
Hwang was born on Jan. 29, 1953, months after the three-year Korean War demolished the peninsula, as the fifth child of a poor farming family in Puyo, South Chungchong Province.
His father passed away due to cerebral hemorrhage in 1958 when Hwang was five years old and his mother cared for the destitute family of three sons, three daughters and a patient grandfather.
Like most Korean mothers, she was strong and coped with the terrible situation. To support the family, she worked all day at the rice fields and home.
However, it was not enough to feed eight family members. She began raising cows of rich neighbors under the condition that her family would receive calves when the cows in her care give a birth to their offspring.
Hwang’s mother did her utmost to treat the seed cows well and Hwang fed them after school. His lifelong ties with the animal, a valuable property in Korea’s rural villages, started then.

Poverty prompted Hwang to turn to religion. He went to a nearby Catholic church and was baptized.
But it was that same poverty that forced him to forsake the religion because the penniless middle school student could not stand the humiliation of being unable to make a donation.
“One day, a priest asked me why I never made a donation in front of everyone. Afterwards, I did not have the guts to see the priest again and opted to escape from the pressure,’’ Hwang said.
Some said the decision might have changed the future path of Hwang since had he remained a Catholic, he would not have started stem cell studies, which is against Catholic philosophy.
“If Hwang had been a Catholic, he might not have continued stem cell research, which kills embryos that many Catholics see as living beings,’’ Dongguk University professor Kim Yong-pyo said.”

His conversion to Buddhism is discussed in Part 2.

…He returned home in 1986 and finally became a SNU professor in 1987 and things all seemed to get on the right track but then health problems emerged.
In fact, he was on the brink of death in 1987 when he had to go through two operations over 10 days, which took more than eight hours apiece, due to a liver disease.
“From the surgery I experienced the shadow of the death. My whole body was dotted with frightful after-operation scars,’’ Hwang said.
Hwang was too tired both physically and mentally at the age of 35 to believe he would become a stem cell superstar in the future. Then he turned to religion to alleviate his strain.
On an autumn day in 1987, Hwang visited Chondung Temple in Kwanghwa Island off Inchon and it was here he found in Buddhism a source for regaining his strength.
“When I saw a statue of the Buddha in the temple, I wanted to bow to him. So I did and found myself refreshed. Then I thought maybe I could start experiments again,’’ Hwang recollected.
Hwang, a former Catholic, could overcome his crisis on the strength of his newfound religion Buddhism. At the time, Hwang promised himself that he would visit the temple at least once a month and has kept his word over the following two decades.
Just like ordinary Korean Buddhists, he has paid a special visits to the temple on special occasions as he did in the early morning of May 14 this year, the day Hwang left for the United States and Britain to announce the establishment of the customized stem cells.
“Hwang came here without prior notice in around 3 a.m. on May 14 and bowed 108 times in a the ritual aimed at expelling all human agonies, in front of a statute,’’ said Rev. Chonghak, vice head of Chondung-sa Temple.
He also traveled to the temple in Feb. 2004 when wide-ranging ethical disputes plagued him after he made the headlines with his stem cell researches through cloned embryos….

The only mention of his wife and kids in in Part 2 after he lost his job at SNU in 1982: “Hwang had married in 1979 and by this time, in 1982, he had two sons _ a three-year-old and one-year-old.”
Somehow I don’t think that he had either (1) a very thorough catechesis, or (2) a clear renunciation of his Catholic baptism. He does appear to be shopping for “religious help,” and the Buddhist religious leaders were the only ones in Korea that seemed to support his cloning work (Confucian, Catholic and Protestant leaders opposed it).

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posted January 2, 2006 at 7:27 pm

This, at the end of the article struck my eye:
Regarding the scandal of falsification of evidence, Prof. Ahn Kyu-ri, a Catholic researcher who collaborated with Hwang at Seoul National University, made her position public through a email to PBC. She expressed her deep regret for the scandal especially for patients suffering from incurable diseases who have now been disillusioned. “I have realized the reality that life is the most important thing, and that the truth will shine only when hope and love are together. I believed stem cells existed but now I am not convinced. Now I want to return to the patients and not to make Cardinal Kim shed any more tears

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scotch meg

posted January 2, 2006 at 9:12 pm

God willing, the next “cold fusion” is here…

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Kevin Jones

posted January 3, 2006 at 7:26 am

Wasn’t the “fetal tissue” research fad of some six years back similarly, though not nearly so publicly, abandoned as a result of severe complications in test subjects? Or did that devolve further into the embryonic stem-cell push?

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