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Essays about stem cell research ethics

Furthermore, we investigated legislative approaches and databases of biomedical studies and sites of the European Union Member States national bioethics committees. Results: Ethical and legal concepts were of utmost importance for the stakeholders involved. Furthermore, the possibilities offered by genetic engineering, especially in the field of research on embryonic stem cells were highlighted.

Conclusions: The potential therapeutic applications of its use lead to an extensive reference regarding the issue of using embryonic stem cells, which creates intense ethical and legal considerations that require sustained interdisciplinary research on the best use of this new option for the good of humanity. A characteristic example of this is marrow transplantation that is widely used today in medicine, a technique developed after the identification of totipotent stem cells.

The phenomenon of tissue regeneration is due to the ability of stem cells to remain undifferentiated for a long time period, without, however, loosing their ability to create new healthy cells in order to replenish the destroyed ones. Research on human embryonic stem cells is considered, by many people, as the most significant scientific achievement of our century as it is expected to open new horizons so much from a medicine aspect as from the aspect of genetic engineering, giving hope to individuals who suffer from incurable or chronic, up to date, diseases.

The most significant benefit of such autologous cell therapies is safety and lack of side-effects, since there is utilization of the potential of the human organism itself. However, genetic engineering, escalating human intervention upon nature, along with many promises, it also involves many risks. In the light of these new scientific developments, many nations, states, cultures and religious groups have come to reconsider their attitude towards this issue.

At the same time, a great deal of controversy and pressure was put on policymaking. This activity has been developing rapidly in the last years, while the legislative choices of the various countries are substantially different, even inside the European Union.

Stem Cell Essay

There are countries that choose to set limitation in any biomedical intervention such as France and Germany and countries which wish to intervene in as few as possible issues such as England. Nowadays legal and ethical constraints for the progress of research are posed, as the main —although not sole- source of stem cells are embryos, which come either from in-vitro fertilization techniques or from abortions and which are ultimately destroyed. The present study explored the possibilities offered by genetic engineering, especially in the research field of embryonic stem cells.

Subsequently, the possible therapeutic applications of their use were presented while there was an extended mention of the issue of embryonic stem cell research, which raises intense ethical and legal considerations. The purpose of the present study was to investigate ethical and legal issues that emerge in relation to the embryonic stem cells research, as well as the European —mainly- texts and the Member States legislative choices.

Thus to show the degree of present uniformity among states in dealing with these, taking into consideration sociopolitical problems. Furthermore, to refer to the possibilities that genetic engineering offers, mainly in the field of embryonic stem cells, and to explore possible therapeutic applications with the use of stem cells. We done an extensive review of Greek and international literature.

A further search was performed also in references of retrieved publications and in files of abstracts from national bioethics committees. A necessary condition for publication search was the determination of indexing terms. The search was performed with the use of key-words MeSH terms like: stem-cells, bioethics, research, legislation, laws, etc. In order to increase the results of the search and the number of studies that were to be reviewed, synonym phrases and word combinations were used.

The selection criteria of a study or article were its clarity, its closeness to the research issues of the present study, its year of publication , the validity of its data, the existence of valid references, its authors and their research work, the validity of the scientific magazine where it had been published. The exclusion criteria of a study were, the originality of its content i. As a result of the aforementioned search, 28 articles were retrieved, which satisfied the criteria, the content of which is discussed in this study. Therefore, the earliest the developmental phase, the more significant their differentiation ability.

Subsequently, there is separation of stem cells to those leading to supportive tissues and to those creating the rest of the embryo. These stem cells —in whole- are characterized as pluripotent.

A Primer on Ethics Education for Stem Cell and Biomedical Scientists

After completion of implantation in the uterus in the beginning of the second week of pregnancy the zygot is called an embryo. In the end of the eighth week the formation of organs and tissues is completed, the embryo acquires human characteristics and it is then referred to as a late embryo. Upon completion of development, some cells reserve a limited self-multiplying ability in reference to the type of differentiated cells they can produce and they are simply called stem cells.

In conclusion, the stem cells that remain after our birth help in keeping the number of differentiated cells in the tissues where they are located stable, in case of destruction of some cells because of injury, disease or cellular death. They are undifferentiated cells in tissues or cells of the human body from where they can be isolated. These stem cells are in small quantities and they are difficult to be spotted in the organism. Cells procured from the umbilical cord of newborns belong to this category.

The Ethics Behind Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Most known groups of adult stem cells are those of the bone marrow and of the late embryo. The late embryo stem cells are isolated either from the tissues or from the reproductive organs of aborted embryos and they are procured after abortion or miscarriage. Their ability to multiply is smaller than that of embryonic stem cells. Another group of adult stem cells is progenitor stem cells which have a limitless ability of self-multiplying but also a big difficulty in their maintenance in an undifferentiated state.

These stem cells are procured from developing embryos that are in the blastocyst stage i. In the stage of 5 days the internal cell mass of the blastocyst — where the stem cells are procured from — can generate all the tissues of the human body. However, this leads to the destruction of the blastocyst, hence to the destruction of the developing embryo, as well. Embryonic stem cells are more flexible than the adult ones, as they have the ability to produce any kind of cells of the human body. They are also easier to collect, isolate and maintain in the laboratory.

They also have the ability to reproduce for a long time period, remaining in an undifferentiated state, before they are activated in order to produce differentiated specialized types of cells. It should be noted that undifferentiated cells cannot be directly used in tissue transplantation, as there is a risk for creation of tumors that are called teratomas. The main sources that embryonic stem cells are procured from are: [ 11 ]. Stem cells of all forms are isolated with the appropriate laboratory methods and, subsequently, they are cultivated in controlled environments so that the cells remain healthy, divided and undifferentiated.

Their multiplication process follows, resulting, in only a few months, to the creation of millions of undifferentiated cells, which are called stem cell lines and they are directly available for research and development of new therapies. The use of stem cells can bring about, in the near future, significant developments in four scientific fields:.


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In the field of basic research, it could contribute to understanding of the complicated organic processes that occur during embryonic development. Through laboratory observation of stem cells and verification of the factors that determinate the process of cell differentiation, scientists are able to understand serious diseases mainly due to cell specialization or cellular proliferation abnormalities like cancer.

In the field of pharmacology, it can incur radical changes in the methodology of medicine development and testing. Medicine design and preparation could become more effective and efficient as it will be possible to test the effectiveness of new medicines first on specialized cell lines.

Thus, there will be a final approval for conducting clinical tests only for those medicines that are considered safe for cell growth and have beneficial results. The field of genetic engineering in connection with the use of stem cells, constitutes a new technique for the cure of genetic diseases. Gene therapy aims at isolation of stem cells from patients with genetic diseases, their genetic repair, their ex-vivo proliferation and finally their transplantation back to the same organism in order to produce genetically corrected cells.

Activation of undifferentiated stem cells, so that they can generate specialized types of cells, leads to the creation of a renewable source of cells and tissues that could be used as implants in many diseases that are due to deregulation of cell function or to loss of a type of cells or tissue. The possibility of re-growth of the missing or destroyed cells and of their implantation into the pancreas would be a therapeutic management of the disease. In this case also, stem cells could offer a tangible possibility of cure.

Project MUSE - Stem Cell Research

Finally, the aforementioned method can significantly contribute to the solution of the problem in reference to the lack of donors as well as to the creation of tissues that are genetically identical histocompatibility to the recipients. Bioethics is an inter-scientific discipline, as it is related to sciences like genetics, medicine, law, philosophy, sociology and theology, a fact that complicates the clear definition of the principles that govern it.

One of the most complicated problems that bioethics has to encounter nowadays, is medical research on stem cells.

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Thus, in most states bioethics councils or committees have been established, in order to weigh the consequences of scientific and technological innovations, which they evaluate according to generally acceptable principles, taking into account the significance of the changes they incur to the living conditions of individuals. Developments in embryonic stem cell research have not only brought about hope, but also controversies in relation to the ethical aspect of the whole issue.

This activity is considered to offend basic values of society, posing, at the same time, new dilemmas and questions in respect to the content and the assurance of basic constitutional principles like respect of human dignity, protection of life, and freedom of sciences. The existence of possible alternative research methods further reinforces this position. In contrast, it is believed that, if there are even simple indications that a research method may lead to control of some diseases, then it should be allowed.

Controversies about research on these cells also come from the existing techniques that are applied for the creation and use of stem cell lines. Moreover, there are many possibilities for the existence of financial rewards behind these agreements.


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  7. Therefore, human life is exploited in order to achieve alien purposes, which opposes the principle of respect of human dignity. Even the use of cadaveric embryonic tissue, as a source of embryonic stem cells, poses the issue of complicity in the process of abortion. On the other hand, the creation of a cloned human embryo intended to be finally destroyed is an action that reduces the value of human life itself, because of the treatment of a human embryo as a simple object and because of the intentional removal of human life.

    However, the National Bioethics Committees of Cyprus and Greece judge the prohibition of stem cells procurement from underage persons for experimental purposes right, while they accept it only for therapeutic purposes. Moreover, in favor of the protection of the personality and confidentiality of the donor, as well as of the recipient of body stem cells, maintaining anonymity of the donor is considered compulsory, as is the case in organ transplantation.

    Along with the ethical reservations, there are many legal reservations that must be taken into account before stem cell therapies are clinically available. These relative legal issues mainly concern matters of intellectual property and of law enforcement which sometimes clash in state level. Finally, a major social issue appears to be the dispersal of benefits of stem cell research. The main arguments of the two different approaches in relation to the ethical aspect of research on and use of stem cells are summarized in Table 1. The modification of adult stem cells in order to produce cell lines similar to those of embryonic stem cells.

    This method does not require destruction of embryos. The production of stem cells —identical to the embryonic ones- from simple skin cells, the fibroblasts.

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    In this phase, the fertilized ovum has been divided into eight cells blastomeres. In artificial insemination centres, often one of these blastomeres is removed in order to undergo all the necessary antenatal examinations. This creates complex issues , as people have different beliefs about what constitutes the start of human life. For some people, life starts when a baby is born, or when an embryo develops into a fetus.

    Others believe that human life begins at conception, so an embryo has the same moral status and rights as a human adult or child. President George W. Bush had strong, pro-life religious views, and he banned funding for human stem cell research in However, President Obama's administration allowed for a partial rolling back of these research restrictions. However, by , scientists had already started using pluripotent stem cells. Scientists do not derive these stem cells from embryonic stem cells. As a result, this technique does not have the same ethical concerns.