Study Guide. International Bioethics Committee. The Progress of Stem Cell Research

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1 Study Guide International Bioethics Committee The Progress of Stem Cell Research The 16 th Bratislava MUN Conference 4 th - 6 th November 2016

2 CONTENTS Letter from the chairperson 3 Acknowledgement of a problem 4 Explanation of relevant terms 6 Historical background on embryonic stem cell research UN Declaration on human clothing 10 Research facilities 12 What issues should a resolution resolve 14 Helpful links and sources 16

3 Greetings delegates, My name is Andrej Sulek and I would like to welcome you to the Model United Nations Convention in Bratislava. This year s BratMUN is/will be organized by students of the IBD programme at Gymnazium Jura Hronca. I am currently studying in the IBD programme and will graduate this school year. I will have the honor of chairing the International Bioethics Committee. I hope that this committee will bring a new biological aspect to BratMUN. It is not one of the typical committees present at model United Nations due, to the fact that there is extensive background knowledge of biology and stem cell research required to intelligently debate on the topic. During this committee we will have a few days to discuss and debate on the topic at hand (stem cell research). The aspiration of this committee will be to resolve the issue by creating an amended draft resolution that will address not only the issues presented in this document, but also issues brought up by the committee itself. I recommend that all the delegates read this study guide. In addition to reading this study guide, the delegates should research the stance of their country on the issue of stem cell research. This should be done to be able to simulate the real course of a united nations debating the topic of stem cell research. The delegates should also review the topic of stem cell research if they are not familiar with it. If all these steps are followed the committee should have enough issues to discuss. The delegate that will adhere to the rules of procedure and aid the conversation the most will be, at the closure of the committee, recognized as the best delegate. I look forward to the chairing of the International Bioethics Committee, and am excited to lead your debate. Sincerely, Andrej Sulek Letter from the chairperson / 3

4 ACKNOWLED- GEMENT OF A PROBLEM

5 Technological and medical advancements are constantly taking place. One of these medical advancements is, the extraction of embryonic stem cells from a human embryo. This presents a lot of new and creative ways to use these stem cells. Stem cells are very attractive to medical researches because they can be differentiated into virtually any type of human tissue. The differentiation will let and lets researchers cure diseases that harm the actual cellular tissue. These, previously incurable, diseases include extreme forms of diabetes, Parkinson s disease, spinal cord injuries, damage to the retinal tissue causing partial or complete blindness and a lot of other serious diseases. The positive effects of pursuing the research of the embryonic stem cells are countless. Nevertheless, the research comes at a significant price. The extraction of the stem cells from an embryo, requires researchers to destroy the human embryo. A human embryo that is already implanted in the mother s endometrium would, without any external disturbances, develop into a living person. The extraction of this embryo presents a mainly ethical issue that has to be addressed and discussed. Another ethical issue is, that the stem cells research could lead to humans being able to alter their genome. This opens a whole new level of ethical discussions and disputes. These are only a few advantages and disadvantages of this fairly recent type of research. The study and the discussion of medical or biological issues (including these) is called bioethics, hence the name International Bioethics Committee. The International Bioethics Committee will discuss, evaluate and attempt to solve the vast number of ethical disputes around the extraction and use of stem cells. Acknowledgment of a problem / 5

6 EXPLANATION OF RELEVANT TERMS

7 Life science: The sciences concerned with the study of living organisms, including biology, botany, zoology, microbiology, bioethics, physiology, biochemistry, and related/underlying fields. Embryonic stem cells: The term embryonic stem cells refers to cells extracted from a human embryo. The stem cells are important to research because they can be differentiated into virtually any type of tissue. Embryo: The union of a sperm and egg cell that is implanted in the mother s endometrium. A developing human organism from the time of fertilization to approximately four weeks after fertilization. Human cloning/cloning: Creation of a genetically identical copy of an already living human being. Differentiation of embryonic stem cells: Differentiation, in this case, refers to the ability to alter a specific cell from an originally unspecific stem cell. This process is, in some cases, reversible. Explanation of relevant terms / 7

8 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND ON EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH

9 In 1981 embryonic stem cells were first derived and identified from mouse embryos. Researchers at the University of Cambridge, Martin Evans and Matthew Kaufman, are credited with their discovery. Later, in 1998 it was reported that scientists managed to successfully isolate and grow a stable culture of human embryonic stem cells. This discovery sparked many debates regarding the ethics of the use of embryonic stem cells and of possible human cloning. Some of the people that support the use of embryonic stem cells argue, that they might be used to cure incurable diseases i.e. Alzheimer s disease, Parkinson s disease, heart disease, diabetes, and many more. Another stance on the matter is that even though the stem cells are used to ultimately heal a person, the isolation requires the destruction of a human embryo, and this is unacceptable. Historical background on embryonic stem cell research / 9

10 2005 UN DECLARATION ON HUMAN CLONING

11 On March 8th, 2015 the General Assembly of the UN adopted the United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning. The declaration had a few main points. The first, and the most important statement was the banning of genetic engineering techniques that may be contrary to human dignity. The second statement was aimed to aid women that have mistreated in scientific fields and calls on States to prevent the exploitation of women in the application of life sciences. The last statement urged countries to protect adequately human life in the application of life sciences. This declaration however is non-binding and so, it leaves a lot of open room for the countries to work with UN Declaration on human cloning / 11

12 RESEARCH FACILITIES

13 Because stem cells are a very promising matter (disregarding the ethical problems) there is no lack of research or of funding of research. All the countries that have lenient policies towards the matter of the ethics of stem cell research are conducting research. Since, the research on stem cells and of stem cells is not widely regarded as legal (due to the extensive ethical issues), the government does not usually participate in the funding of research. Due to this fact, the funding primarily comes from private donors. The topics being researched at the moment include: Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Blood/Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSC), Cancer, Cardiovascular Stem Cells, Diabetes/ Metabolic Disorders, HIV/AIDS, Human Embryonic Stem Cells (hesc), Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (ips), Neural Stem Cell Repair and Reproduction and Infertility. These are among only the few research topics being solved with stem cells. At the moment, mostly Asian countries are leading the research due to the fact that their policies sometimes do not restrict even the most ethically questionable alterations in stem cells. Research facilities / 13

14 WHAT ISSUES SHOULD A RESOLUTION RESOLVE

15 Is there an objective way to decide when an embryo becomes a human? What guidelines should be adopted to ensure that handling and research of stem cells will not be in conflict with various religions, ethical and moral codes and cultures? Should the UN lift the ban on human cloning? Should the UN impose direct, concrete and universal laws regarding the extent of research on embryonic stem cells? If so, how would these laws be enforced? How to prevent the misuse of embryonic stem cells? Should the embryonic stem cells be used by pharmaceutical companies for drug testing? Should stem cells be used to cure diseases that are able to be cured by stem cells? Should the stem cells be used to alter the human genome in any way? If yes, than in what ways? What issues should a resolution resolve / 15

16 HELPFUL LINKS AND SOURCES

17 https://stemcell.ucla.edu/current-stem-cell-clinical-trials download?doi= &rep=rep1&type=pdf Helpful links and sources / 17

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