Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Yet More Lies From Stem Cell "Superstar"?

South Korean professor and cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk, is in yet more trouble. And the MSM (mainstream media), who remain desperately committed to push embryonic stem cell research despite its failures, dangers, and immoral foundations, may soon be reeling at the fall of one of their heroes.

Prof Hwang Woo-suk

And, make no mistake; "hero" is the right word for how Hwang Woo-suk is revered by the media -- and by a large section of the Korean public who have bought into the false promises of embryonic stem cell and cloning researchers. For instance, just a few days ago (even after the revelation of his lying about the source of the eggs used in his experiments), the Telegraph (U.K.) described Woo-suk as "a scientific superstar" whose "laboratory is without doubt leading the rest of the world in using human embryos as a source of stem cells, flexible cells that could offer a treatments for ailments such as heart disease, diabetes and motor neuron disease."

Note too the response of Koreans to the documentary produced by MBC (a Korean TV network) last week. The hour-long program fairly covered the issue about Woo-suk's lies about the egg donations and included a lengthy interview with the professor himself. But the uproar that followed that program showed how little scientific facts (or moral standards) matter to the pro-ESCR forces.

Here's how The Korea Times described the response to the MBC documentary:

"Then supporters for Hwang quickly launched organized salvos at producers of the MBC program and the broadcasting network. Some even threatened to kill family members of the producers, posting their photos on the Internet. They argued the program was ``against national interests.’’

A group of protesters also staged a candlelight demonstration in front of MBC headquarters in Yoido, Seoul, Saturday. Among some 50 of them was disabled pop singer Kang Won-rae. The protesters said they will launch a signature-collection campaign against MBC.

Fearing further public rancor, 11 out of 12 advertisers for the MBC program have decided to withdraw their advertisements.."

Even the South Korean President, Roh Moo-hyun, weighed in on the matter. He too was bothered by the MBC documentary presenting Woo-suk in a negative light (the President knows this represents fewer investment dollars coming into the South Korean economy) yet he was obliged to decry the intolerance and fear fostered by the pro-ESCR leaders.

Let's face it; embryonic stem cell research has not had a good year. Despite the MSM's best efforts to keep the hype up, the public's belief in ESCR's benefits are waning. The results simply haven't come through. The developments utilizing adult stem cells, however, have been truly amazing with medical treatments (not mere potential or grand promises) already helping thousands of people. Adding the ethics violations of Hwang Woo-suk to sour the public even further on ESCR shenanigans paints an even bleaker picture for the field.

Don't figure on the movement's leaders and their media allies giving up easily though. In a recent USA Today story highlighting how embryonic stem cell scientists around the world were worried about further funding of their own projects after Woo-suk's lies about the egg donations, there was this observation:

"...Paul Root Wolpe of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania points out that Hwang did not resign because he used eggs from his researchers but because he lied about it and brought shame "in a country where public shame is so powerful.

He is not the only one to note that Hwang's findings have not been compromised. "While ethical issues about (egg) donation should be debated and the process regulated, the scientific conclusions of Dr. Hwang's research remain intact," Schatten said in a statement..."

But what if Hwang Woo-Suk lied about more than the egg donations?

New reports of his lying about the scientific findings of his much-publicized research have been made -- and again by MBC. And these lies go right to the heart of his ESCR and cloning claims.

Here's an excerpt from today's report from LifeNews:

A Korean television station whose investigative report was the nail in the coffin that prompted human cloning scientist Hwang Woo-suk to admit he lied about egg donations his researchers made says he may have lied about the results of his research as well.

Last year, Hwang's team said it successfully cloned a human embryo from embryonic stem cells. The report came in the scientific journal Science, which also exposed the egg donation coverup.

However, Korean television station MBC has conducted interviews with an unnamed member of Hwang's research team who says the cells were never cloned successfully. The researcher called the reports a "collection of falsehoods."

According to MBC, the scientist "maintains that Hwang's team fabricated data because in reality it failed to clone a somatic cell and instead used a frozen embryo from the hospital to make stem cells."

The researcher also said Hwang's team did not successfully clone a cow, as had been reported. Hwang's team also claims to have successfully cloned a dog, the first time scientists have ever been able to do it.

A report in the Chosun Ilbo newspaper in Korea says MBC was able to win over members of Hwang's team by claiming it was producing a documentary on stem cell research. The paper says the television station was able to use hidden cameras to dig up dirt on Hwang and his team members by talking to some scientists.

It will be interesting to see the story play out. But no matter how the pro-ESCR media try to spin a way out of these latest revelations, Hwang Woo-suk looks likely to finally go from the movement's hero to its goat.

Like I said, it's been a bad year for ESCR.