The South Korean researcher who was the first to clone human embryos for the creation of stem cells plans to establish a worldwide stem-cell bank to make the technology available to other scientists.
The World Stem Cell Foundation, set to be unveiled today in Seoul, intends to produce about 100 new cell lines each year and make them available to scientists, particularly those in the United States who have been stymied in their research by federal funding restrictions.
The creation of the stem-cell bank offers the possibility of sidestepping the Bush administration’s restrictive policies governing the use of human embryos for research purposes.
“I think U.S. scientists will be lining up to request them,” said Dr. George Q. Daley, a professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School.
The foundation will be based at Seoul National University and led by Woo Suk Hwang, a professor at the school’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Satellite laboratories will be opened in San Francisco and Oxford, England.
So far, Hwang’s lab is the only one that has been able to master the delicate art of squeezing DNA out of human eggs, replacing it with DNA from the skin cells of sick patients and coaxing the eggs to develop to the point where stem cells can be harvested.
Researchers will be able to apply to have stem cells created from the DNA of their choice; once developed, the cell lines will be made available for other scientists to use.
The foundation’s organizers declined to discuss their plans in advance of their news conference in Seoul. Details were provided by scientists who had been briefed on the plan and a report published online by the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with the announcement.