Korean first stem cell stops working due to poor health

Embattled South Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-Suk won't be able to resume his research for some time due to poor health, his doctor said Tuesday. Hwang, who gained international renown for creating the world's first embryonic stem cells that genetically match injured or sick patients, went into seclusion late last month after publicly apologizing for ethical lapses in his research. Hwang admitted his team used eggs donated from two junior scientists in his lab, after more than a year of denial. Under generally accepted international guidelines, scientists are warned to be cautious in allowing subordinates to be subjects for research because of concerns about coercion.

"Prof. Hwang wants to return to his office even now ... but his health has become worse," Ahn Cu-rie, Hwang's physician, who also serves as one of his research partners, told reporters. "As a doctor, I came to determine yesterday it was impossible for him to return to the office at this point, so I recommended that he recuperate in a hospital."

Ahn declined to give details, citing patient confidentiality. Yonhap news agency quoted her as describing his condition as "more than a cold." Science and Technology Minister Oh Myung said Hwang is fatigued and suffers from a stomach ulcer, according to Oh's spokesman. In a vote of confidence for Hwang, President Roh Moo-hyun urged him Monday to resume his research soon for the benefit of patients suffering from hard-to-treat diseases, and pledged the government's support for his work.

"I wanted to donate eggs as soon as they accept donations," said 38-year-old Bae Hyun-joo. "It really hurts to see Dr. Hwang suffer. I hope researchers on Hwang's team can concentrate on their work again so that patients with incurable diseases can smile again." Ahn Duck-jin, a member of Hwang's Internet fan club who started the egg donation campaign, said he and other members "wanted to show with action" their support for Hwang's research. "We hope Dr. Hwang will return to his research soon," he said, informs the AP. N.U.

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