Why he’s interesting: The Fulbright Research Award-winning professor addresses ethical questions about biological and medical advancements such as regenerative medicine, brain “organoids” that scientists have begun to create using human stem cells, and human-animal “chimeras” that involve growing human tissues in animals. Hyun, who chairs Case Western Reserve University’s stem cell committee, works closely and carefully with leading researchers while weighing the implications of their work.
Mind Matters: Diving into the ethics of the evolving brain organoid research (the “brains” are so far about the size of a pea), Hyun raises questions about human identity and consciousness. “If someone can actually re-create regions in your brain, or maybe all the regions of your brain, in a dish and maintain that for a long period of time, then the question becomes what’s in the dish — what is that? Is it simply a tool for research, or does it start to take on morally important properties?”
Stem Cell Successes: As stem cell research develops, Hyun tracks the value stem cells provide for researchers and theorizes about how they could help with patient therapies in the future. He explains that scientists may be able to re-create human tissues and transplant them into patients without the body rejecting them, or they may be able to grow human organs in large animals for eventual transplantation into humans. “You can study how disease unfolds, you can study drug interventions. It doesn’t expose any living thing, animal or human, to risk — not yet.”
Wax On, Wax Off: About four times a week, you can find the professor training in mixed martial arts at Vanyo Martial Arts in Strongsville. Hyun practices Thai kickboxing and Brazilian jiujitsu, and he was California State Champion in Kenpo Karate Fighting when he attended Stanford University. Hyun approaches his work in a similar way to how he approaches mixed martial arts. “I’ll learn from many different approaches. I’ll keep what works, throw away whatever doesn’t work.”
High School Sweethearts: For 21 years, Hyun has been married to Leneigh White, the owner and director of Strongsville Family Counseling. The couple started dating in high school, when he was drum major in the marching band and she was also in the band. He played the saxophone, and she played the flute. “I was two years older than her. I ended up talking with her a lot because I would stand right in front of her during practice.”
‘Stang Man: A classic car enthusiast, Hyun drives a white Ford Mustang GT with blue racing stripes. “It’s funny because I’ll pick up visiting professors at the airport, and they’re like, ‘Who’s car is this?’ ”
Interesting Fact: Hyun holds three black belts, and in 2017, he received his black band, the equivalent of a black belt, in muay thai.