The Hwang fraud must not hold back human embryonic stem cell research, insists a leading US researcher. Xiangzhong (Jerry) Yang, of the University of Connecticut, writes in Nature Biotechnology that “reconsidering our work because of a hoax in our field is unthinkable”. Yang believes that the science behind hESC research is basically sound and that Korean debacle was “an individual case of the sort that can happen in any field of science”.
Furthermore, he says, Korea was uniquely vulnerable to this fraud because of Hwang’s “rock star” status in the media and because whistleblowing is discouraged there. In the West, scientists do not enjoy such prestige and whistleblowing is common. “It is to be hoped that these events will not unduly affect future related ES cell research in Korea, Asia, the West or the rest of the world,” he says.
China-born Yang is one of the leading advocates of embryonic stem cell research in the US. Although he is dying of cancer, he is determined to see research in hESCs begin at the University of Connecticut. “Until you have a major disease, you don’t understand how important this is,” he told the Hartford Courant last year. However, his colleagues at UConn and nearby Yale were more cautious. I don’t think we should make this large commitment because Jerry is driven by his health issues,” said Dr Peter Deckers, director of the University’s Health Center.
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