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Korean stem cell team 'coerced' to provide eggs

TV claims add to Hwang Woo-suk's woes

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Disgraced Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk's woes multiplied last night with the revelation on MBC TV that he had allegedly "coerced" female colleagues into providing eggs for cloning research, Reuters reports.

Hwang, who resigned before Christmas amid serious doubts about his claims to have produced tailored embryonic stem cells, (more details here), reportedly applied pressure to team members to "subject themselves to painful procedures to extract eggs and contribute to Hwang's research out of fear they would otherwise be excluded from academic recognition", a member of said team told MBC TV.

The source - disguised to protect her identity - explained how one colleague "told Professor Hwang she wouldn't go through with the procedure", to which Hwang replied: "Why not?" The interviewee continued: "She was worried, and it was out of worry that she decided to donate her eggs."

She then "went back to Hwang's laboratory and conducted the cloning experiment on the eggs that she herself had contributed that morning", the source reported. An email from the donor, seen by MBC TV, said: "I hope I can forgive myself for not being able to stand up to the professor."

Hwang has not responded to the latest report, and the panel investigating Hwang's work has declined to comment until the conclusions of its probe are released next week. It has already declared that none of Hwang's work - as published in Science - could be proved, and is now deciding whether or not Hwang's team actually succeeded in producing the world's first cloned dog back in April 2005. ®

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