Debates over the ethics of embryonic stem cell research continue to divide scientists, politicians and religious groups. However, promising developments in other areas of stem cell research might lead to solutions that bypass these ethical issues. These new developments could help win stem cell research more support from those against embryonic stem cell research, since they don't require the destruction of blastocysts.
Latest DevelopmentsThe most recent research has shown that there are many options available other than working with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells can be obtained from cord blood or derived by manipulating differentiated cells (i.e. skin cells) to revert them to a pluripotent state. These are alternatives that may help broaden the acceptance of stem cell research.
In November 1998 the first published research paper reported that stem cells could be taken from human embryos. Subsequent research led to the ability to maintain undifferentiated stem cell lines (pluripotent cells) and techniques for differentiating them into cells specific to various tissues and organs.
The debates over the ethics of stem cell research began almost immediately in 1999, despite reports that stem cells cannot grow into complete organisms.
In 2000 – 2001, governments worldwide were beginning to draft proposals and guidelines in an effort to control stem cell research and the handling of embryonic tissues, and reach universal policies to prevent “brain-drains” (emigration of top scientists) between countries. The CIHR (Canadian Institute of Health Sciences) drafted a list of recommendations for stem cell research in 2001. The Clinton administration drafted guidelines for stem cell research in 2000, but Clinton left office prior to them being released. The Bush government has had to deal with the issue throughout his administration. Australia, Germany, UK and other countries have also formulated policies.