Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ethics and Embryonic Stem Cells - Opinions??

I've been doing a bit of research on the treatment that Advanced Cell Technology is beginning to trial to treat Stargardt's and came across an anti-cloning and embryonic stem cell research blog. This is put together by Australian doctors and scientists. There is a specific post relating to the ACT trial. The post states that ACT are really in it for the fame of discovering something "new" and that it will likely cause immuno-suppression to the treated patients. It also states that such embryonic stem cells can't ever be injected into a patent's eye, and the trial being conducted by ACT is actually to see what harm using such cells may have on people.

Naturally I was angry to read this as when I discovered that ACT was conducting an actual human trial I was ecstatic and was given hope that I would definitely one day regain some of my vision. So this lead me to research what this post has said and find out more about the ethics surrounding embryonic stem cells, as I am all for ethical research and treatment and reading these statements did make me feel somewhat uncomfortable with the whole idea of have such cells put into my eyes. This is what info I found:

1. Embryonic stem cells come from 5-6 day old human embryos. Embryos in humans are a fertilized egg of up to 8 weeks. To me, the though of using these cells made me uncomfortable, although when I researched further and found out that they were only 5-6 days old, merely a bundle of cells, my feelings somewhat eased. I'm not entirely sure where the embryos for the ACT trial are from, but I will try to find out. The following website is from the Australian Government about Biotechnology and has some useful information about stem cells:

Biotechnology Online - Stem Cells - Australian Government

2.Induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS) are another type of stem cells the post states that could be used instead of embryonic stem cells, as they do not have the ethical issues associated with embryonic stem cells as IPS cells are derived from the person's own body, reducing the risk of rejection of foreign cells and also immunosuppression to the person receiving the cells. This type of stem cell was first produced in 2006, making it quite new so obviously there still needs to be a lot of research on the impact of such cells. There is the thought that the use of such cells may impact caner causing genes, making them "turn on" and cause problems, although a study found a way to stop this from happening. I'd like to find out more on these IPS cells and see why such cells can't be used in place of embryonic stem cells.

I hope this information has been useful! I am a strong believer in ethics and I like to know everything about everything, which is why I felt the impulse to find out more about stem cells and the different types that could potentially help us  with Stargardt's. What are your thoughts?

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