The issue of using stem cells in medicine and public policy in the united states

Stem cell For many decades, stem cells have played an important role in medical research, beginning in when Ernst Haeckel first used the phrase to describe the fertilized egg which eventually gestates into an organism. The term was later used in by William Sedgwick to describe the parts of a plant that grow and regenerate. Further work by Alexander Maximow and Leroy Stevens introduced the concept that stem cells are pluripotent. This significant discovery led to the first human bone marrow transplant by E.

The issue of using stem cells in medicine and public policy in the united states

The Stem Cell Debate: Stem cell therapies are not new. Doctors have been performing bone marrow stem cell transplants for decades. But when scientists learned how to remove stem cells from human embryos inboth excitement and controversy ensued. The excitement was due to the huge potential these cells have in curing human disease.

The controversy centered on the moral implications of destroying human embryos. Political leaders began to debate over how to regulate and fund research involving human embryonic stem hES cells.

Newer breakthroughs may bring this debate to an end. These cells are reducing the need for human embryos in research and opening up exciting new possibilities for stem cell therapies.

Timeline of major events in stem cell research policy

Both human embryonic stem hES cells and induced pluripotent stem iPS cells are pluripotent: While hES cells are isolated from an embryo, iPS cells can be made from adult cells. The Ethical Questions Until recently, the only way to get pluripotent stem cells for research was to remove the inner cell mass of an embryo and put it in a dish.

The thought of destroying a human embryo can be unsettling, even if it is only five days old. Stem cell research thus raised difficult questions: Does life begin at fertilization, in the womb, or at birth?

Is a human embryo equivalent to a human child? Does a human embryo have any rights? Might the destruction of a single embryo be justified if it provides a cure for a countless number of patients? Since ES cells can grow indefinitely in a dish and can, in theory, still grow into a human being, is the embryo really destroyed?

With alternatives to hES cells now available, the debate over stem cell research is becoming increasingly irrelevant. But ethical questions regarding hES cells may not entirely go away. For now, some human embryos will still be needed for research.

An additional ethical consideration is that iPS cells have the potential to develop into a human embryo, in effect producing a clone of the donor. Many nations are already prepared for this, having legislation in place that bans human cloning.


Stem Cell Research Legislation Regulations and policies change frequently to keep up with the pace of research, as well as to reflect the views of different political parties. Here President Obama signs an executive order on stem cells, reversing some limits on federal research funding.

Timeline of major events in stem cell research policy | Research!America

White House photo by Chuck Kennedy Governments around the globe have passed legislation to regulate stem cell research. In the United States, laws prohibit the creation of embryos for research purposes.

Scientists instead receive "leftover" embryos from fertility clinics with consent from donors.

The issue of using stem cells in medicine and public policy in the united states

Most people agree that these guidelines are appropriate. Disagreements surface, however, when political parties debate about how to fund stem cell research. The federal government allocates billions of dollars each year to biomedical research.

But should taxpayer dollars be used to fund embryo and stem cell research when some believe it to be unethical? Legislators have had the unique challenge of encouraging advances in science and medicine while preserving a respect for life.

President Bush, for example, limited federal funding to a study of 70 or so hES cell lines back in While this did slow the destruction of human embryos, many believe the restrictions set back the progress of stem cell research.

Policy-makers are now grappling with a new question: Should the laws that govern other types of pluripotent stem cells differ from those for hES cells? If so, what new legislation is needed?Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent stem cells derived from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst.

These stem cells can differentiate into all other cells in the human body and . Already, there is a widespread, deep-seated demand for the products that stem cells may eventually provide — treatments for diabetes, regenerative medicine, and . Embryonic Stem Cell Research.

when President George W. Bush announced a policy that federal funds could only be used to support research using human embryonic stem cells lines that were derived before that date. The Obama Executive Order directed the National Institutes of Health to issue Guidelines to permit such funding.

The stem cell controversy is the consideration of the ethics of long past their viable storage life. In the United States alone, an estimated at least , such embryos exist. This has led should provide funding for stem-cell research, so that shifts in public opinion and government policy would not bring valuable scientific.

In its draft guidelines for research on human pluripotent stem cells, the NIH explains how to qualify for funding of stem cell research, while asserting that the derivation of the stem cells from early human embryos is ineligible for federal funding (Varmus, ).

Frequently lost in the policy discussions about human embryonic stem cells research are concrete realities that will determine how quickly such research will result in treatments and cures.

Practical Problems with Embryonic Stem Cells