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SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network STEM CELL RESEARCH The Science, Ethics, and Politics.

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Presentation on theme: "SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network STEM CELL RESEARCH The Science, Ethics, and Politics."— Presentation transcript:

1 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network STEM CELL RESEARCH The Science, Ethics, and Politics

2 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network Outline of This Presentation The nature and promise of stem cell research The ethical and political debates Funding and regulation How can I become more involved?

3 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network What Are Stem Cells? Stem cells are the raw material from which all of the body’s mature, differentiated cells are made. Stem cells give rise to pancreatic cells, bone cells, brain cells, kidney cells, etc.

4 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network What’s So Special About Stem Cells? They have the potential to replace cell tissue that has been damaged or destroyed by severe illnesses. They can replicate themselves over and over for a very long time. Understanding how stem cells develop into healthy and diseased cells will assist the search for effective treatments and cures. Target illnesses: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, juvenile diabetes, spinal cord injury, MS, ALS, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, and many others.

5 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network Two Kinds of Stem Cells Researchers work mainly with embryonic and adult stem cells.  Embryonic stem cells (also called “pluripotent” cells) are capable of developing into all the cell types of the body.  Adult stem cells, which are found in some body tissues, are less versatile, small in number, and difficult to identify, isolate, and purify.  Almost all scientists agree that research should proceed on both embryonic and adult stem cells.

6 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network Embryonic Stem Cells: Researchers extract stem cells from a 5-7 days old blastocyst. Stem cells can divide in culture to form more of their own kind, thereby creating a stem cell line. The research aims to induce these cells to generate healthy tissue needed by patients.

7 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network Two Sources of Embryonic Stem Cells 1.Excess fertilized eggs from IVF (in-vitro fertilization) clinics 2.Therapeutic cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer)

8 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network Thousands of frozen embryos are routinely destroyed when couples finish their treatment. These surplus embryos can be used to produce stem cells. Regenerative medical research aims to develop these cells into new, healthy tissue to heal severe illnesses.

9 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer The nucleus of a donated egg is removed and replaced with the nucleus of a mature, "somatic cell" (a skin cell, for example). No sperm is involved in this process, and no embryo is created to be implanted in a woman’s womb. The resulting stem cells can potentially develop into specialized cells that are useful for treating severe illnesses.

10 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network The Ethical/Political Debate In favor of ESCR: Embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) fulfills the ethical obligation to alleviate human suffering. Since excess IVF embryos will be discarded anyway, isn’t it better that they be used in valuable research? SCNT (Therapeutic Cloning) produces cells in a petri dish, not a pregnancy. Let’s regulate the research, not outlaw it. Against ESCR: In ESCR, stem cells are taken from a human blastocyst, which is then destroyed. This amounts to “murder.” Slippery slope argument: ESCR will lead to reproductive cloning. There is a risk of commercial exploitation of the human participants in ESCR. Will therapies resulting from the research be inexpensively available to everyone? Women will be exploited to obtain their eggs for the research.

11 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network Key Ethical & Political Issues The blastocyst used in stem cell research is microscopically small and has no nervous system. Does it count as a “person” who has a right to life? Ought we to distinguish between “human life” on the one hand, and “personhood” on the other? Like an egg, sperm, hair, or cheek cell, a human blastocyst is, in the strictly biological sense, human (belongs to the human species) and alive (not dead). But does human life, in this biological sense, amount to personhood? What do various religions say about when personhood begins? Does science have a view on this? In a society where citizens hold diverse religious views, how can we democratically make humane public policy? More generally, how may a technologically complex society be democratically governed?

12 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network Funding and Regulation of Stem Cell Research Funding and Regulation of Stem Cell Research State Federal International At all three levels of government, the future of stem cell research is insecure. The research is strongly supported by scientists and health care professionals, and very much needed by patients. On the other hand those who oppose the research – embryonic stem cell research especially – are highly motivated and determined to legislate it out of existence. In the absence of federal support, many individual states are considering funding stem cell research.

13 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network Federal Legislation Federal funding is prohibited for research using cell lines developed after Aug 9, 2001. Most scientists agree that the approx. 19 viable cell lines, all grown on a “feeder” layer of mouse cells, are inadequate. Despite bi-partisan support, efforts to regulate the research are currently stalemated in Washington. However, prospects look good for the Senate version of H.R. 810 (Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act). The anti-research Weldon bill seems not to have sufficient support to pass.

14 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network State Legislation Legislation supporting stem cell research has been passed in California, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Illinois. A bond issue passed in November 2004, the “California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative” will provide $3 billion for stem cell research over 10 years. However, the proposition is currently (2006) tied up in the court system, and the state legislature is considering restrictive legislation. Many states are considering stem cell research legislation.

15 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network International Legislation Embryonic Stem cell research is highly controversial not only in the United States but worldwide. England, India, Israel, Japan, Singapore, S.Korea are among the nations that have passed pro-research legislation. In the fall of 2004, the General Assembly tabled a proposal for a global ban on both therapeutic and reproductive cloning. But in 2005 the UN voted to “prohibit all forms of human cloning.” The United States, influenced by the religious right, strongly supported the ban. However, it was opposed by most nations with active embryonic stem cell research programs. Some Latin American countries in which the Roman Catholic Church is powerful voted for the ban. But two of the largest – Argentina and Brazil – did not. Many Islamic nations abstained.

16 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network Questions: Are adult cells just as useful for research as embryonic or cord cells? What discoveries have been made? Where on the path to cures are we? What are the biggest remaining barriers? Should government fund stem cell research?

17 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network What can I do? BECOME INFORMED! Learn the facts about stem cell research and its curative potential. Resources are plentiful, and include: Student Society for Stem Cell Research Stem Cell Action Network Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research

18 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network Inform Others Give a presentation like this one to patient and other community groups. Organize a house party to help spread the word. Offer to help someone give this presentation. Encourage supporters to add their names to mailing lists of advocacy organizations like: Student Society for Stem Cell Research (SSSCR) Stem Cell Action Network (SCAN)

19 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network Inform Others (cont’d) Arrange to meet with political representatives and candidates to discuss their support for stem cell research. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Find other like-minded people and work together. Invite friends, colleagues, patients and patient caretakers to become involved.

20 SCAN – Stem Cell Action Network BE SEEN! BE HEARD! BE IMPATIENT!

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