March 2, 2024


 Stem cell expert Hwang Woo-suk and five other scientists who allegedly faked stem cell research went on trial this week in Seoul. They have been charged with fraud, embezzlement of US$3 million in public funds and breach of South Korea’s bioethics laws. Hwang has denied the charges. "I was not involved in the process; I only received results," Professor Hwang told the court about his sensational articles on human cloning. If the accusations of falsified research were true, he said, that would mean that "my whole research team conspired to deceive me, but I still don’t believe this is the case". Once hailed by the government and others as "the pride of Korea", Hwang could face several years in jail if he is found guilty.


A new test will make it possible for doctors to detect nearly any genetic defect in IVF embryos, British researchers have revealed at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Prague. They say that thousands of defects can be identified with a more sophisticated form of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis called pre-implantation genetic haplotyping. Embryos with the defects could be destroyed and couples could then take home a healthy child. "We are very excited about this," says Professor Peter Braude, of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London. "It is a paradigm shift, a big, big change."

The new test has already been approved by the UK’s fertility regulator and tried seven times, resulting in five currently healthy pregnancies. However, critics of destructive embryo research condemned it. Josephine Quintavalle, of the UK lobby group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said, "I am horrified to think of these people sitting in judgment and deciding which embryos should live and which should die," she said. "The goalposts are already getting wider and wider."