Doctor who, again? Dr Hwang Woo Suk. If you haven't heard of him, I don't blame you. Chances are, you're not following news about advances in embryonic stem cell technology, or more popularly known as cloning, by most people.
Around May to June this year, Dr Hwang made news when he announced in Science (journal read by nerds like me) that he and his team of researchers at the Seoul National University Stem Cell Research Center were able to clone human embryos and produced eleven (yes, that much!) stem lines like cartilage, both striated and smooth muscles, retina and primitive neuroepithelium, bone, and other important human body tissues. I almost fell down on my seat reading his original paper in June this year when he described that "each NT-hESC line differentiated into all germ layers." Imagine that. ALL germ layers. It was too good to be true.
The medical implications were stupendous! I can almost smell a Nobel Prize for him during that time. I'm not in favor of cloning human beings, but I am in favor of therapeutic cloning, a treatment option in which replacement of pathologic body tissue(s) or organ(s) is possible.
Now, everything has gone haywire.
This morning, most South Korean daily newspapers are screaming with headlines that Dr Hwang submitted a fake research paper. US dailies like the NYTimes , the LATimes, and TIME magazine have also concurring reports. Another sad development is Scientific American's announcement that they are dropping Dr Hwang from "his honored position as Research Leader of the Year." A distinguished U.S. collaborator and co-author of Dr Hwang's controversial paper, Dr Gerald P. Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh, has asked the editors of the journal Science to "take him off the list of authors" of the paper published in May this year. Shame, shame, shame.
Here is a timeline of Dr Hwang's rise and fall.
Where is he now? He is presently hospitalized at the psychiatric ward of Seoul National University Hospital in downtown Seoul. He has been confined there since December 7 when a local TV documentary aired allegations that his research was fake.
Though I feel sorry for the man, I feel sorrier for the thousands of patients given false hope, and who are still sufferring right now.