Monday, August 6, 2007

Serendipity Baby! Part Three

I've written about serendipitous moments in recent scientific history HERE. It really is amazing how so many of our most important discoveries have been made by complete accident. Sometimes, the genius is in identifying something groundbreaking in the middle of a big fat ooops.

Most recently, there's been an amazing discovery found amidst controversy and shame. South Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang (how would YOU like to be named a name that sounded like "you suck wang?") was the once decorated geneticist that fell from grace when it was discovered that he had faked his work. In 2004, Dr. Hwang had declared that he had extracted the world's first stem cells from a cloned embryo.

It was soon discovered that Hwang used eggs from his female researchers and that the stem cells he had "extracted" weren't from cloned embryos at all. He was stripped of his job and charged with fraud and embezzlement.

The Harvard Stem Cell Institute decided to review Hwang's work. What they found was something spectacular: the stem cells that Hwang extracted have come from embryos produced through parthenogenesis, or "virgin birth."

In other words, Hwang must have stimulated the eggs to divide while trying to clone them. The stem cells harvested from these eggs were created without needing sperm to fertilize them. The whole controversy surrounding stem cell research is the moral one - the need to create life in order to get those precious stem cells.

But if you could somehow make eggs divide without being fertilized - you're not creating a life in the first place. This would allow scientists to get stem cells, which are the building blocks of life, without having to resort to first having to make human embryos.

Now the only question will be, how will the lack of having paternal DNA affect the the quality of stem cells? Scientists are pretty sure, however, that the quality of these "virginal birth" stem cells will be of higher quality that cloned ones.

So, Woo Suk Hwang, maybe South Korea can reinstate you for your accidental breakthrough. At the very least, maybe your parents can issue you a public apology for naming you after a porno flick.

26 comments:

angel, jr. said...

So does that mean the egg came before the chicken?

KC said...

I love to read this kind of stuff on your blog because I would never have run onto it myself. Unfortunately, I have the bad habit of my eyes glazing over whenever I run across any vaguely scientific reports. Except yours, of course. Thank you.

Keshi said...

**It was soon discovered that Hwang used eggs from his female[Photo] researchers and that the stem cells he had "extracted" weren't from cloned embryos at all

I really dun get why ppl do this kinda thing.


Keshi.

David Amulet said...

I fear that if you think that somehow making eggs divide without being fertilized--and thus not creating a life in the first place--will disarm critics who say that this is "improper" use of eggs, you are sadly mistaken. This will just be seen as another way science is violating some divine plan.

The great book The Black Swan, which I think you'd enjoy, has some good mentions of "accidental" discoveries.

-- david

Dan said...

I understand that most of the Harvard professors themselves are stem cells. Especially the ones teaching politics and liberal arts.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

I drank WAY too much last night to think this hard this morning.

Hell, I don't understand all this stem cell, DNA, egg parthenogenesis when I'm NOT hung over.

Can I copy off someones paper please? :)

delmer said...

It's names like "Woo Suk Hwang" that almost make "Delmer" seem commonplace.

The Phoenix said...

angel, Yes...in this case you are correct, sir.

KC, I'm glad I could help. I try my best to put all that jargon into normal verbage.

keshi, They do it for stem cells. Stem cells is the key to curing all kinds of diseases.

david, Thanks, I'm going to have to check out that book. There's always going to be critics of anything to do with genetics and stem cells. The moral issue is a very tough one. It's also an issue I've had to disagree with my fellow Catholics on.

dan, Not to confuse with stooge cells.

stacy, I'll make you a cheat sheet

delmer, Woo got that right.

Phats said...

This post was awesome mostly for
Woo Suk Hwang! that name is freaking awesome.

Mr. Shife said...

He definitely needs an apology at least for that name. There are a lot of things I have discovered by accident that not as exciting as this. But at 13 that one thing I discovered made me think nothing else in the world mattered.

goddess said...

interesting, very very interesting. yeah that they can still do all the research and potentiallyh cure all the things that stem cell research can help with.

Vani said...

now i can say i'm doing my part in educating myself in worldly affairs! with 3 girls, i love the thought of being able to have kids w/ out doing the deed! what a breakthrough. so then the real question is, why do we need men again?

Carmel said...

Interesting name lol

Sherri said...

Can you imagine saddling your child with a name like that???

I am fascinated, however, that he was able to get an egg to start dividing without fertilization.

BrianAlt said...

Only problem is Woo Suk Hwang translated means, "super cool guy".

Metal Mark said...

I am always learning something new at this blog.

The Phoenix said...

phats, Remember that Chinese pilot that struck our spy plane? His real name was Wong Wei.

mr. shife, I can pretty much guess what that one thing was.

goddess, I personally am hoping stem cell research reaches that maximum potential.

vani, You need men in order to take out your frustrations. We're like pinatas.

The Phoenix said...

carmel, You can't make up that name.

sherri, No. I could never give my child such a messed up name. I wonder what would happen if that divided egg were to continue to mature? Without a father's DNA, I'm thinking...Frankenstein?

brianalt, You are truly a man of the world.

metal mark, Thanks buddy!

Phats said...

I feel like after reading your blog I can back to school in a week and debate with the science dept! ha

goldennib said...

So science proves the Bible right again; D

Jamie Dawn said...

Gosh, that guy's name is hitonious!
I hope his accidentally beneficial research turns out to do humanity some real good.

I'd sure like to accidentally come up with something that would fill a huge need in our society. It would do the world a lot of good while filling my bank account to overflowing - a win win!!

I hope your summer has been a good one.
Bloggers are taking blog breaks and family trips, etc... I expected to have missed a few posts of yours by now, but I found you had only put up one new one. You must be as busy as I have been lately.

DaBich said...

OMG! I choked on my Diet Coke when I read that poor man's name! LMAO!
As usual, interesting information!

the weirdgirl said...

That's fascinating! I wonder how he stimulated the eggs to divide? Chemical, electrical? (If you have any articles you could email I'd love to see them!)

I wonder if the religious extremists will try to claim those parthenogen cells as sacred?

ozymandiaz said...

This is exactly the kind of reporting I have come to rely on you for...
whatever THAT means

:P fuzzbox said...

He should have made gay porno.

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