Three years ago, a team of South Korea’s eminent genetic engineers proudly announced that they have successfully cloned a human being. Hwang Woo-suk and the rest of his team later retracted their statements and said that their experiments were a mere sham. This sent shock waves through out Korea and the rest of the world. An entire nation’s roster of experts fell into a quagmire of ethical dilemmas and the science and motivation behind cloning and genetic manipulation of the human genome got questioned yet again.
Apparently, it wasn’t all junk science. Hwang Woo-suk and his team were successful in doing something unprecedented. Though they weren’t able to harvest stem cells from a human embryo that they claim to be the result of cloning, the Korean doctors were able to create a line of egg cells through parthenogenesis – a procedure that has never been done before either.
Parthenogenesis involves inducing egg cells to divide without fertilization with a sperm cell. The egg cell continues to divide as if it were already combined with another set of DNA so in effect, the division is dictated by the DNA of the egg cell alone. Animals like sharks have already been documented to exhibit such a cellular process.
According to the scientists who studied the line of egg cells, it was unmistakable. Dr. Hwang and his associates definitely did something unprecedented and worthy of commendation, but they were either unfortunately unaware of this or they simply chose to make a press release regarding a more explosive claim – that of cloning.
Dr. Hwang is now running a private lab just outside Seoul. He has continued to keep mum regarding the recent developments.