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Stem cell pioneer steps down over egg ethics

'Shameful and horrible'

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Pioneering stem cell researcher Professor Hwang Woo-Suk has stepped down from his position as Chairman of the World Stem Cell Hub, after it emerged that he used eggs from his own researchers in his work.

The story was first picked up by the journal Nature, after an interview with one of Hwang's PhD students in which she claimed to have donated her Ova. The journal put the allegations to Hwang, but he denied that any of his students had donated eggs for his research and blamed the student' poor English for the misunderstanding.

Suspicions were raised again earlier this month when one of Hwang's colleagues', Gerald Schatten, ended their collaboration. He cited concerns over the origins of the eggs the team was using.

This week the South Korean Health and Welfare Ministry confirmed that two junior researchers had indeed donated their ova for the professor's research two years ago.

Resigning from all his official posts, Hwang said: "I am very sorry that I have to tell the public words that are too shameful and horrible."

Despite this, the Seoul University Ethics panel has stated that there was no illegality or ethic breach in what had happened. After reviewing written testimony from 34 researchers and interviewing the women in question, it concluded that the two women made their donations before the current Life Ethics and Safety Law came into effect, Chosun Ilbo reports.

The panel also said that the women made their donations under false names, and that Professor Hwang was not aware of their decision. ®

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