South Korea conditionally lifted its three-year-old ban on somatic stem cell research Wednesday, paving the way for scientists to resume experiments that could open new horizons for the treatment of various disabilities.
The decision allows Cha Medical Center to conduct research involving somatic stem cell cloning if it abides by four preconditions, Yonhap News Agency reported Wednesday, quoting a presidential committee on bioethics.
The committee called on the hospital to make clear that research will primarily be conducted on lab animals to reduce use of human ovum, with an independent Institutional Review Board to be set up to check for possible abuse and ethics violations.
It also called for removal of all references that stem cell research could lead to cures as that would give false hope to people and to seek renewed permission from donors who previously pledged to donate their ovum for testing.
Committee members stressed that while it has given permission, Cha can only begin research if it has satisfied the above pre-conditions.
They said that the decision will be forwarded to the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, which will review any research proposals forwarded by the hospital and give final consent.
If authorization is given, the hospital, which has an extensive fertility clinic, will effectively be allowed to conduct research carried out by disgraced cloning expert Hwang Woo-suk.
The former Seoul National University professor is currently on trial on charges of fraud and violating bioethics laws. He and his team have been accused of using fabricated data to claim a breakthrough in stem cell research that grabbed international attention.