A panel of scientists cast serious doubt today on a claim by a team of South Korean medical researchers that it had succeeded in cloning a human embryo.
In December, Lee Bo-yeon, a professor at Kyunghee University Hospital, announced that his team replaced the nucleus of a womans egg with the nucleus of one of her body cells, transferring her DNA to the egg.
The team then cultivated the egg until it grew into four cells, an early embryonic stage, Lee said. His claim drew worldwide attention as a rare first step in human cloning.
American experts said it was the first time they knew of that human DNA had been transferred from a body cell into a human egg, with the egg then developing into embryonic cells.
No Data to Prove Cloning
But four experts from the Korean Doctors Association, which conducted a 25-day investigation, said the research at Kyunghee could not be scientifically verified.
The Kyunghee scientists could not present sufficient data to prove what they said they have achieved, said Seo Jeong-sun, a professor at state-run Seoul National University who led the investigation.
We would not go so far as to call it a complete fraud, but we concluded that as scientists, they were very clumsy throughout their research, not keeping proper documents of the procedure, he said.
Lee said his team never intended to conduct a formal scientific experiment and therefore didnt keep detailed records.
Media Attention Put Thing ... Awry
But we did conduct the experiment and did achieve the results, Lee said. The whole thing went awry when the research received so much media attention and everybody thought we actually cloned a human being.
Lee said he conducted the experiment to simply observe how cloning techniques could be used to help infertile patients and stopped well before we got too far and crossed the line of medical ethics.
The medical association launched the peer review after the news of Lees claim caught the government off guard and sparked debates and anti-cloning protest rallies.
Seo said the association will announce the results of his teams probe on Friday. The association will also propose a moratorium on all human cloning experiments until South Korea adopts a new law banning research on human cloning except for research on cancer or other diseases.
The anti-cloning law, proposed by the government, is now before Parliament for approval.