Stem Cells and Ethics: Current Issues

  • Jennifer Blair McCormickEmail author
  • Holly A. Huso


Much attention has recently turned to the promise and potential of human stem cells in therapeutic applications for the repair of cardiac tissue. The advances being made in the laboratory are exciting, and the pace at which research using human stem cells is moving from bench to bedside is extraordinary. The social, ethical, and policy considerations embedded within this area of research also require a large amount of attention and deliberation so that the scientific progress is able to successfully continue without social backlash.


Ethics Stem Cells Translational Research Policy 



We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of M.R. Dickerson, D.J. Driscoll, and S.D. Sparks. We also thank our anonymous reviewers for their time and thoughtful comments. J.B.McC.’s work on this publication was made possible by Grant Number 1 UL1 RR024150-01* from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of NCRR or NIH. Information on NCRR is available at Information on Reengineering the Clinical Research Enterprise can be obtained from


  1. 1.
    Thomson, J. A., Itskovitz-Eldor, J., Shapiro, S., Waknitz, M., Swiergel, J., Marshall, V., et al. (1998). Embryonic stem cell lines derived from human blastocysts. Science, 282, 1145–1147. doi: 10.1126/science.282.5391.1145.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Revazova, E. S., Turovets, N. A., Kochetkova, L. B., Kindarova, L. N., Kuzmichev, J. D., Janus, M. V., et al. (2007). Patient-specific stem cell lines derived from human parthenogenetic blastocysts. Cloning and Stem Cells, 9, 432–449.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Klimanskaya, I., Chung, Y., Becker, S., Lu, S., Lanza, R. (2006). Human embryonic stem cell lines derived from single blastomeres. Nature, 444, 481–485.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Yu, J., Vodyanik, M., Smuga-Otto, K., Antosiewicz-Bourget, J., Frane, J., Tian, S., et al. (2007). Induced pluripotent stem cell lines derived from human somatic cells. Science, 318, 1917–1920.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Takahashi, K., Tanabe, K., Ohnuki, M., Narital, M., Ichisaka, T., Tomoda, K., et al. (2007). Induction of pluripotent stem cells from adult human fibroblasts by defined factors. Cell, 131, 861–872.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Scott, C. T., & Pera Reijo, R. A. (2008). The road to pluripotence: The research response to the embryonic stem cell debate. Human Molecular Genetics, 17, R3–R9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hassink, R. J., Rivière, A. B., Mummery, C. L., & Doevendans, P. A. (2003). Transplantation of cells for cardiac repair. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 41, 711–717. doi: 10.1016/S0735-1097(02)02933-9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Perin, E. C., Geng, Y., & Willerson, J. T. (2003). Adult stem cell therapy in perspective. Circulation, 107, 935–938. doi: 10.1161/01.CIR.0000057526.10455.BD.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Behfar, A., Faustino, R., Arrell, D. K., Dzeja, P., Perez-Terzic, C., & Terzic, A. (2008). Guided stem cell cardiopoiesis: Discovery and translation. Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, 45(4), 523–529. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2008.09.122.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Burt, R., Kessler, J., & Loh, Y. (2008). Hematopoetic vs embryonic sources for stem cell research. Journal of the American Medical Association, 299(23), 2746–2747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Trounson, A. (2009). New perspectives in human stem cell therapeutic research. BMC Medicine, 7. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-7-29.
  12. 12.
    Zhu, W., Hauch, K., Xu, C., & Laflamme, M. (2009). Human embryonic stem cells and cardiac repair. Transplantation Reviews, 23(1), 53–68.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Nelson, T. J., Martinez-Fernandez, A., Yamada, S., Perez-Terzic, C., Ikeda, Y., & Terzic, A. (2009). Repair of acute myocardial infarction by human stemness factors induced pluripotent stem cells. Circulation, 120, 408–416. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.868158.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Murray, F. (2007). The stem cell market: Patents & the pursuit of scientific progress. New England Journal of Medicine, 356(23), 2341–2343.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Cyranoski, D. (2008). Japan ramps up patent effort to keep iPS lead. Nature, 453, 962–963. doi: 10.1038/453962a.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Baker, M. (2009). Stem cells: Fast and furious. Nature, 458, 962–965. doi: 10.1038/458962a.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Cyranoski, D. (2009). Japan relaxes human stem-cell rules. Nature, 460, 1068. doi: 10.1038/4601068a.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Couzin, J. (2009). Celebration and concern over U.S. trial of embryonic stem cells. Science, 568. doi: 10.1126/science.323.5914.568.
  19. 19.
    Greely, H. T. (2007). The uneasy ethical and legal underpinnings of large-scale genomic biobanks. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics, 8, 343–364.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Aalto-Setala, K., Conklin, B. R., & Lo, B. (2009). Obtaining consent for future research with induced pluripotent cells: Opportunities and challenges. PLoS Biology, 7, e1000042. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000042.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Lin, Z., Owen, A. B., & Altman, R. B. (2004). Genomic research and human subject privacy. Science, 305, 183.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Malin, B., & Sweeney, L. (2004). How (not) to protect genomic data privacy in a distributed network: Using trail re-identification to evaluate and design anonymity protection systems. Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 37, 179–192.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    McGuire, A. L., & Gibbs, R. A. (2006). No longer de-identified. Science, 312, 370–371.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Homer, N., Szelinger, S., Redman, M., Duggan, D., Tembe, W., Muehling, J., et al. (2008). Resolving individuals contributing trace amounts of DNA to highly complex mixtures using high-density SNP genotyping microarrays. PLoS Genetics, 4, e1000167. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000167.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Caulfield, T., McGuire, A. L., Cho, M., Buchanan, J. A., Burgess, M. M., Danilczyk, U., et al. (2008). Research ethics recommendations for whole-genome research: Consensus statement. PLoS Biology, 6, e73. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060073.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    McGuire, A. L., Caulfield, T., & Cho, M. K. (2008). Research ethics and the challenges of whole-genome sequencing. Nature Reviews Genetics, 9, 152–156.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Carpenter, M., Frey-Vasconcells, J., & Mahendrea, S. R. (2009). Developing safe therapies from human pluripotent stem cells. Nature Biotechnology, 27. doi: 10.1038/nbt0709-606
  28. 28.
    Wilson, J. M. (2009). A history lesson for stem cells. Science, 324, 727–728.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Hyun, I., Lindvall, O., Ahrlund-Richter, L., Cattaneo, E., Cavazzana-Calvo, M., et al. (2008). New ISSCR guidelines underscore major principles for responsible translational stem cell research. Cell Stem Cell, 3, 607–609.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Nelson, B. (2008). Stem cell researchers face down stem cell tourism. Nature Reports Stem Cells, doi: 10.1038/stemcells.2008.89.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Kiatpongsan, S., & Sipp, D. (2009). Monitoring and regulating offshore stem cell clinics. Science, 323, 1564–1565.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Kimmelman, J. (2005). Recent developments in gene transfer: Risk and ethics. BMJ, 330, 79–82. doi: 10.1136/bmj.330.7482.79.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Kimmelman, J., Baylis, F., & Cranley Glass, K. (2006). Stem cell trials: Lessons from gene transfer research. Hastings Center Report, 36, 23–26.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Hall, S. S. (2006). Stem cells: A status report. Hastings Center Report, 36, 16–22.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    May, T., Craig, J. M., & Spellecy, R. (2007). Viewpoint: IRBs, hospital ethics committees, and the need for “translational informed consent”. Academic Medicine, 82, 670–674.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Medicine and Health Sciences Research, Bioethics Research GroupMayo Clinic and College of MedicineRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Cardiovascular SurgeryMayo Clinic and College of MedicineRochesterUSA

Personalised recommendations