Edited Extract from:
Scientific achievements: cloning and the pill
South Korea issued a 220-won stamp Feb. 12 to commemorate the first anniversary of the successful establishment of human cloned embryonic stem cells by Woo Suk Hwang and his team of South Korean scientists.
The team announced the results Feb. 12, 2004, at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle. It published them the same day in Science Express, the online version of the journal Science.
Jung Hwa Roh designed the South Korean stamp. Koreapost describes the design as showing the “procedure of establishing stem cells and hope.”
The design is divided into two parts, with the left representing the procedure used to obtain and clone the human embryos.
The new-issue announcement from Koreapost says: “Stem cells grow into all the different types of cells comprising the human body and are produced from the inner cells of blastocysts, a hollow microscopic ball of cells. “For obtaining cloned embryonic stem cells, the nucleas is extracted from a matured human egg (called enucleation); the somatic cells of the subject (patient) that is to be cloned is transferred to enucleated oocytes; and through electric fusion and an activation process, embryo development is induced as normal fertilization of sperm and egg.”
A silhouette of a man in a wheelchair is pictured in the lower right of this part of the design. Four additional silhouettes of the man are featured on the right part of the design, symbolizing the hope offered by stem-cell research for people suffering with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart and spinal-cord diseases, diabetes and other incurable diseases. Starting from left to right, the silhouettes show the man starting to get out of his wheelchair, taking his first step, jumping and hugging his wife.
In an interview with Anthony Faiola published in the Feb. 29, 2004, issue of The Washington Post, Hwang said: “Cloning should be used to improve the human condition. Okay, so I cloned a human embryo. Do you blame me? Who can blame me? I am not out to clone a human. I am trying to save human lives . . .” He also said, “Of course, we’ve thought about the ethical questions, and now I’m willing to hear what my government and others around the world have to say. But to me, there is really only one question: How can we stare at the possibility of saving millions of people, improving the lifestyles of millions more and choose not to act.”
The Korea Minting and Security Printing Corp. printed the commemorative by gravure using five inks, including an optically variable ink that appears to change colors depending on the angle in which the stamp is viewed. The Stem Cells stamp was printed in panes of 20 and in a quantity of 1.6 million stamps.
The address of the South Korean bureau is:
The souvenir sheet shows two portraits of Djerassi: a photographic portrait on the 1-euro stamp and another portrait in the border area that appears to be composed of dots.
The Austrian post office provides more information: “This stamp is the first of its kind in the world: the face in the background is made up of microscopic chemical formulae for the steroid (art screen composed of enantiomers of the steroid.)”
The dictionary defines enantiomer as “either of a pair of chemical compounds whose molecular structures have a mirror-image relationship to each other.”
Djerassi was born Oct. 29, 1923, in Vienna to two Jewish physicians. Because of his Jewish origins, he was forced to emigrate to the United States in 1938. Today, he makes his home in San Francicso and London.
In a 1997 interview with Jill Wolfson of the San Jose Mercury News and Jay Chien, then a high-school student, Djerassi said he did not know much about the United States when he arrived as a young refugee. He told them the following story: “Mrs. Roosevelt, the wife of the president at that time, was to me sort of like a queen of America, like Queen Elizabeth in England. When I was 16 years old, I wrote a letter to Mrs. Roosevelt. I said: ‘Dear Mrs. Roosevelt, I need a scholarship.’ Can you imagine . . . “But actually, I got an answer. The letter was not written by her, but by a secretary. And she actually got me a scholarship! This is how I ended up in a college in the midwest, in Missouri, a place I didn’t even know existed.”
In 1951, Djerassi synthesized the pregnancy hormone progestin, which later became the active ingredient in the first contraceptive pill.
Djerassi later worked as an industrialist and at Stanford University, where he is professor emeritus in chemistry. He also invented his own literary genre called “science-in-fiction.” He has described it as “an effective way of smuggling serious topics of scientific behavior into the consciousness of the scientifically illiterate.”
Djerassi collects art, most notably that of Paul Klee, and he founded a resident colony for artists in Woodside, Calif., in 1982.
Michael Rosenfeld designed the souvenir sheet. The Austrian Government Printing Office produced it by gravure in a quantity of 400,000.
The addresses of the Austrian bureau and its new-issue agency in the United States are:
Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corp.,