Genetics, Ethics &Meaning. Module 4

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1 Genetics, Ethics &Meaning INItiative (GEMINI) Life Sciences and of Michigan Module 4

2 Myths versus Facts The University of Michigan s Stem Cell Research Environment A Case Study

3 MYTH: Michigan Law protects embryos from destruction. Michigan fertility clinics routinely discard as medical waste the unused embryos created for in vitro fertilization. But Michigan law prohibits research that would damage or destroy a human embryo, even if that t embryo is going to be discarded. d d

4 MYTH: Adult stem cells are as useful as embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells have the ability to create any cell type in the human body. Adult stem cells are more specialized; they generally make cells only from their tissue of origin. Thus, embryonic stem cells can do things that adult stem cells cannot do. To maximize the chances of discovering new cures, it is essential to pursue research on both embryonic and adult stem cells.

5 MYTH: We don t need embryonic stem cell research because of the recent breakthrough enabling scientists to "reprogram" " human skin cells into cells that t behave like embryonic stem cells. Scientists agree it is too early to assess the technique's full potential and determine whether the reprogrammed cells are functionally equivalent to embryonic stem cells. In addition, the technique can cause mutations that predispose cells to cancer. As a result, some scientists are concerned that the reprogrammed cells will never be suitable for use in patients. For the foreseeable future, stem cell researchers agree that research should continue along all avenues, using embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, and reprogrammed cells.

6 MYTH: Adult stem cells have been proven effective in treating ti more than 70 diseases. While adult stem cell research holds much promise, blood stem cells offer the only proven adult stem cells therapies. The claim that t adult stem cells have been used to cure more than 70 diseases has been widely discredited.

7 MYTH: Stem cells from amniotic fluid and umbilical cord blood can be used instead of embryonic stem cells. Amniotic fluid and umbilical cord blood contain adult stem cells. They hold promise for therapy but do not have the properties or potential of embryonic stem cells.

8 MYTH: The stem cell lines approved by the federal government provide an adequate source of embryonic stem cells for research. The approved stem cell lines were created on or before Aug. 9, Scientists later determined that those lines are contaminated t with animal proteins. In addition, none of the approved lines was created to model human disease. Although President Bush initially intended to make more than 70 federally approved lines available to scientists, most of these lines turned out to be inadequately characterized, and only 22 such lines remain.

9 MYTH: Religious people oppose embryonic stem cell research. Some religious people are in opposition. Others believe that embryonic stem cell research is pro-life and that it is immoral not to pursue this research, because of its potential to reduce human suffering. Most religious traditions, including Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and some branches of Christianity do not consider embryonic stem cell research to be immoral.

10 MYTH: Embryonic stem cell research uses embryos that have begun to develop as babies. Stem cells are derived from blastocysts that have only developed for about five days after fertilization. The blastocysts t used for this research develop entirely in laboratory dishes in fertility clinics and are never implanted in a womn s uterus. These early stage embryos consist of about 100 cells and are the size of the period at the end of this sentence. At this stage, the cells are undifferentiated: They have no nervous system, no heart, no limbs and no specialized human tissues.

11 MYTH: Embryonic stem cell research uses aborted fetuses There is no connection between abortion and human embryonic stem cells. By the time a human embryo has implanted in the uterus, its cells have specialized to the point where they can no longer be used for the derivation of embryonic stem cell lines. The embryos used to derive stem cells are created in dishes in fertility clinics. They are never transferred into the human body and are donated for medical research only when parents decide they are no longer needed for fertility treatment.

12 MYTH: Embryos discarded by fertility clinics could be adopted rather than discarded or used for research Snowflake Children is a term used to describe some babies born from leftover IVF clinic embryos donated to other infertility patients. But the Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption Program claims fewer than 200 births since it began in Meanwhile, thousands of leftover embryos are discarded each year and more than 400, embryos are currently frozen in fertility clinics; most will eventually be discarded. Many embryos created for IVF are discarded because they do not develop normally or are known to carry serious genetic abnormalities. Such embryos are not suitable for implantation. But in the laboratory, these defective embryos could help researchers understand genetically linked diseases and develop treatments for them.

13 Putting it all together We just went through four modules Basic science Basic ethical and moral Specific Religious view points Case study of a research university How do we put these different perspectives together?

14 References and Additional Resources University of Michigan Stem Cell Research. Over But Suffering Tendrill Plant Cell Nucleus 19 Week Ultrasound Zoe 3D Zoe 3D

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