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2007/06/14 17:31 KST
S. Korean scientists to lead stem cell quality standard research

SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korean scientists will lead a global project to establish quality standards for stem cells that may speed up drug manufacturing and human treatment efforts, the Science Ministry said Thursday.

   Lee Bong-hee of Gachon University of Medicine and Science and Kim Dong-wook of Yonsei University were made co-chairs of the Human Stem Cell Proteome Project. Both scientists currently conduct nano-biotech research for the South Korean government.

   The project, jointly sponsored by the Human Proteome Organization (HUPO) and the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), is aimed at gaining greater understanding of proteins related to the creation, maintenance and differentiation of both embryonic and adult stem cells.

   "There is considerable research being conducted by multinational pharmaceutical companies in stem cell and protein research, but since they do not share their know-how, individual institutes and schools have decided to form a partnership," said Lee. He stressed the new project is important because with no established standards in this field, there could be serious complications in conducting advanced research and actual production.

   HUPO is led by Albert Heck of the Netherlands, while ISSCR is headed by Paul Simmons of the United States.

   "The research that is to be carried out by Korean scientists is to find specific proteins than can become 'markers' to determine the quality of stem cells and help in the standardization process," the scientist said.

   "This process is needed because even if stem cells are created, there is no way to determine the quality of these cells at present," the biologist said. Lee said quality checks become more important when stem cell undergo the diversification process to become specific organs or parts.

   Stem cells have received worldwide attention because they have the potential to be developed into any part of the body. Experts have also said they could be used in future drugs.

   At present, knowledge of stems cells is limited, with no embryonic stem cell having been created so far, and only rare cases of adult stems cells repairing partially damaged body parts.

   Lee said by leading the marker research field, South Korea could gain the crucial upper hand when full-scale commercial use of stem cells takes place in the future.