Monday, September 8, 2008

Ethical Stem Cell Research

Forest Murmurs reports a breakthrough in adult stem cell research which could result in new treatments for schizophrenia using cells derived from human skin.

The research is being carried out at Dr Ian Wilmut's lab, which famously cloned Dolly the Sheep. Ian Wilmut abandoned work on embryonic stem cells in favour of adult stem cells, but curiously, Professor Hans Schoeler from Germany, was quoted in the article as claiming that "the stage has not yet been reached where pluripotent stem cells can replace embryonic stem cells." This seems a little odd given that adult stem cells are producing results and are already being used to treat many human diseases (bone marrow transplant to treat leukaemia, for example) . The production of human embryonic stem cells is completely unacceptable in that it involves killing human embryos. As far as I am aware there are no clinical trials currently being carried out involving human embryonic stem cells. The use of animal embryonic stem cells in mice proved most unsatisfactory as the undifferentiated cells proved to be incapable of producing any result other than the growth of tumours.