Cytotechnology

, 41:59 | Cite as

Aspects on properties, use and ethical considerations of embryonic stem cells – A short review

  • Ole Johan Borge
  • Kathinka Evers
Article

Abstract

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.

embryonic stem cell ethics stem cell research 

References

  1. Annas GJ (2002) Cloning and the U.S. Congress. N Engl JMed 346: 1599–1602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brem G (1997) Presentation at the XXXVIth Meeting of the Group of Advisers on the Ethical Implications of Biotechnology, the European Commission.Google Scholar
  3. Cibelli JB, Lanza RP, West MD and Ezzell C (2002a) The first human cloned embryo. Sci Am 286: 44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cibelli JB, Grant KA, Chapman KB, Cunniff K, Worst T, Green HL, Walker SJ, Gutin PH, Vilner L, Tabar V, Dominko T, Kane J, Wettstein PJ, Lanza RP, Studer L, Vrana KE and West MD (2002b) Parthenogenetic stem cells in nonhuman primates. Science 295: 819.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dennis C (2002) Stem cells rise in the East. Nature 419: 334–336. Der Spiegel (10) (1997).PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. European Commission (2002) Survey on human stem cells.Google Scholar
  7. Evans MJ and Kaufman MH (1981) Establishment in culture of pluripotential cells from mouse embryos. Nature 292: 154–156.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Evers K (1999) The identity of clones. J Med Philos 24(1), 67–76.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Evers K (2002) European perspectives on therapeutic cloning. N Engl J Med 346: 1579–1582.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Holden C and Vogel G (2002) Stem cell lines. 'show us the cells', U.S. researchers say. Science 297: 923–925.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Itskovitz-Eldor J, Schuldiner M, Karsenti D, Eden A, Yanuka O, Amit M, Soreq H and Benvenisty N (2000) Differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into embryoid bodies compromising the three embryonic germ layers. Mol Med 6: 88–95.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Jiang Y, Jahagirdar BN, Reinhardt RL, Schwartz RE, Keene CD, Ortiz-Gonzalez XR, Reyes M, Lenvik T, Lund T, Blackstad M, Du J, Aldrich S, Lisberg A, Low WC, Largaespada DA and Verfaillie CM (2002) Pluripotency of mesenchymal stem cells derived from adult marrow. Nature 418: 41–49.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kim JH, Auerbach JM, Rodriguez-Gomez JA, Velasco I, Gavin D, Lumelsky N, Lee SH, Nguyen J, Sanchez-Pernaute R, Bankiewicz K and McKay R (2002) Dopamine neurons derived from embryonic stem cells function in an animal model of Parkinson's disease. Nature 418: 50–56.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kaufman DS, Hanson ET, Lewis RL, Auerbach R and Thomson JA (2001) Hematopoietic colony-forming cells derived from human embryonic stem cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98: 10716–10721.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Klug MG, Soonpaa MH, Koh GY and Field LJ (1996) Genetically selected cardiomyocytes from differentiating embronic stem cells form stable intracardiac grafts. J Clin Invest 98: 216–224.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lebkowski JS, Gold J, Xu C, Funk W, Chiu CP and Carpenter MK (2001) Human embryonic stem cells: Culture, differentiation, and genetic modification for regenerative medicine applications. Cancer J Suppl. 2: 83–93.Google Scholar
  17. Levenberg S, Golub JS, Amit M, Itskovitz-Eldor J and Langer R (2002) Endothelial cells derived from human embryonic stem cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99: 4391–4396.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Liu S, Qu Y, Stewart TJ, Howard MJ, Chakrabortty S, Holekamp TF and McDonald JW (2000) Embryonic stem cells differentiate into oligodendrocytes and myelinate in culture and after spinal cord transplantation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 97: 6126–6131.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lumelsky N, Blondel O, Laeng P, Velasco I, Ravin R and McKay R (2001) Differentiation of embryonic stem cells to insulinsecreting structures similar to pancreatic islets. Science 292: 1389–1394.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Martin GR (1981) Isolation of a pluripotent cell line from early mouse embryos cultured in medium conditioned by teratocarcinoma stem cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 78: 7634–7638.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McDonald JW, Liu XZ, Qu Y, Liu S, Mickey SK, Turetsky D, Gottlieb DI and Choi DW (1999) Transplanted embryonic stem cells survive, differentiate and promote recovery in injured rat spinal cord. Nat Med 5: 1410–1412.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. New York Times (1997) 24-2-1997.Google Scholar
  23. Odorico JS, Kaufman DS and Thomson JA (2001) Multilineage differentiation from human embryonic stem cell lines. Stem Cells 19: 193–204.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Paris (2001) Comité Consultatif National d'Ethique. Quote from the Opinion on the preliminary draft revision of the laws on bioethics. (Accessed 2002-10-25, at http://www.comiteethique. fr/english/start.htm). 67: 18-1-2001.Google Scholar
  25. Petitnicolas C. and Perez M (2002) Les enjeux du clonage thérapeutique (Quote from Marc Peschanski). Le Figaro. 19-1-2002.Google Scholar
  26. Potocnik AJ, Kohler H, Eichmann K (1997) Hemato-lymphoid in vivo reconstitution potential of subpopulations derived from in vitro differentiated embryonic stem cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 94: 10295–10300.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rowley JD, Blackburn E, Gazzaniga MS and Foster DW (2002) Harmful moratorium on stem cell research. Science 297: 1957.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schuldiner M, Eiges R, Eden A, Yanuka O, Itskovitz-Eldor J, Goldstein RS and Benvenisty N (2001) Induced neuronal differentiation of human embryonic stem cells. Brain Res 913: 201–205.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Shamblott MJ, Axelman J, Wang S, Bugg EM, Littlefield JW, Donovan PJ, Blumenthal PD, Huggins GR and Gearhart JD (1998) Derivation of pluripotent stem cells from cultured human primordial germ cells (published erratum appears in Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2 February 1999, 96(3): 1162). Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 95: 13726–13731.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Thomson JA, Kalishman J, Golos TG, Durning M, Harris CP, Becker RA and Hearn JP (1995) Isolation of a primate embryonic stem cell line. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 92: 7844–7848.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. The Norwegian Ministry of Health (2002) Ot. prp. Nr. 108 (2001–2002) Ot. prp.Google Scholar
  32. The Opinion of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies to the European Commission. Ethical Aspects of Patenting inventions involving human stem cells. 7-5-2002.Google Scholar
  33. Thomson JA, Itskovitz-Eldor J, Shapiro SS, Waknitz MA, Swiergiel JJ, Marshall VS and Jones JM (1998) Embryonic stem cell lines derived from human blastocysts (published erratum appears in Science, 4 December 1998, 282(5395): 1827), Science 282: 1145–1147.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Vogel G (2002a) Stem cell lines. Regulations constrain stem cell research across the globe. Science 297: 924.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Vogel G (2002b) British science. Pioneering stem cell bank will soon be open for deposits. Science 297: 1784.Google Scholar
  36. Vogel G (2002c) Stem cells. In the Mideast, pushing back the stem cell frontier. Science 295: 1818–1820.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Weissman IL (2002) Stem cells – Scientific, medical, and political issues. N Engl J Med 346: 1576–1579.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wilmut I, Schnieke AE, McWhir J, Kind AJ and Campbell KH (1997) Viable offspring derived from fetal and adult mammalian cells (published erratum appears in Nature, 13 March 1997, 386(6621): 200), Nature 385: 810–813.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Xu C, InokumaMS, Denham J, Golds K, Kundu P, Gold JD and Carpenter MK (2001) Feeder-free growth of undifferentiated human embryonic stem cells. Nat Biotechnol 19: 971–974.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Yamashita J, Itoh H, Hirashima M, Ogawa M, Nishikawa S, Yurugi T, Naito M and Nakao K (2000) Flk1-positive cells derived from embryonic stem cells serve as vascular progenitors. Nature 408: 92–96.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zhang SC, Wernig M, Duncan ID, Brustle O and Thomson JA (2001) In vitro differentiation of transplantable neural precursors from human embryonic stem cells. Nat Biotechnol 19: 1129–1131.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ole Johan Borge
    • 1
  • Kathinka Evers
    • 2
  1. 1.The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board, SentrumOsloNorway (E-mail
  2. 2.Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Ethics in BiomedicineUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

Personalised recommendations