Aspects on properties, use and ethical considerations of embryonic stem cells – A short review
- Cite this article as:
- Borge, O.J. & Evers, K. Cytotechnology (2003) 41: 59. doi:10.1023/A:1024862403630
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Mammalian embryonic stem cells have the potential to differentiate into all cell types of an adult individual. The culturing of human embryonic stem cells renders possible studies that were previously only available in animal models. Embryonic stem cells constitute a particularly attractive tool for studies of self-renewal, commitment, differentiation, maturation and cell-cell interaction. There is currently considerable hope that studies of embryonic stem cells will lead to new therapies; either by themselves, through cell replacement strategies, or by generating results assisting other fields of research to reach clinical results. There are, however, considerable challenges to be met before embryonic stem cells can be used in large-scale clinical trials.Stem cell research is an area that has given rise to much debate internationally, within science, law and politics as well as within philosophy and ethics. The ethical attitudes expressed in the public debate over stem cell research notably divide over three important distinctions: (1) Reproductive versus therapeutic cloning; (2) Using already existing embryos versus producing new embryos for research purposes; (3) Production of embryos from eggs and sperm versus through somatic-cell nuclear transfer. The potential medical benefits that may result from embryonic stem cell research arguably support a continued development in this area. However, some opponents argue that this research offends the (relative or absolute) moral status of an unborn human. Furthermore, the research would probably prove to be a both time-consuming and very expensive method for treating disease. Thus, the questions arise whom the new technique wouldbenefit and at what cost, if ever developed.