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Dolly Creator Wants to Work With Hwang

Korea Times | April 6, 2005
By Kim Tae-gyu

Scottish embryologist Ian Wilmut, who cloned the first mammal, a sheep named Dolly, has asked Seoul National University (SNU) professor Hwang Woo-suk to collaborate with him on therapeutic stem cell research.

In a news conference at SNU on Wednesday, Wilmut, of the Roslin Institute in Scotland, said he wants to work with Hwang to find a cell therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which results in serious muscle atrophy.

``There is no cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease now. We will be able to get the first cure against the disease through the stem cell research and I want to collaborate with Hwang,’’ Wilmut said.

He said his team already gained government approval for stem cell experiments this January and is waiting for a positive answer from Hwang.

Wilmut added he looks to clone somatic cells of Lou Gehrig’s disease patients to actually establish stem cell lines from them with the help of the Korean team, which is well versed in the area.

Hwang surprised the world early last year by cloning human embryos and harvesting stem cell lines from them for the first time in history.

``I did not start experiments yet as we are trying to learn which is the best way to develop embryonic stem cells from Hwang,’’ he said.

Hwang showed a cautious response although he appeared to tilt toward accepting the proposal.

``Lou Gehrig’s disease is a good target to test the viability of stem cell therapy due to its complexity. In addition, the offer exerts a strong emotional pull on me because so many people are suffering from the critical disease without any hope,’’ Hwang said.

However, the 52-year-old professor urged that people not to jump to conclusions.

``Personally, I want to work with Wilmut for various reasons. But when deciding things of this importance, personal opinion does not matter much. We should take many things into consideration like national interest and talk with the government,’’ he said.

Through negotiations with the Korean government, Hwang said he would visit the Roslin Institute in May to check the potential of Wilmut’s research in person.

``Our team plans to decide in May through the visit. And the final answer for the offer will be decided by no later than June,’’ Hwang added.


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