Bio-Ethics FAQ's

What is the study of Bio-ethics?

Bio-ethics is the philosophical study of the ethical controversies brought about by advances in biology and medicine. Bio-ethicists are concerned with the ethical questions that arise in the relationships among life sciences, biotechnology, medicine, politics, law, philosophy, and theology.

FAQ's on Stem Cell Research

1. What are stem cells?

Stem cells are cells are immature cells that have yet to develop into a particular type of cell in the body such as a heart cell, skin cell or liver cell. Stem cells therefore serve as a sort of repair system for the body as they can replenish other cells.

2. Where do stem cells come from?

Stem cells are in abundance in many human tissues such as bone marrow, muscle, liver and pancreas - these are called adult stem cells. They can also be isolated from human embryos that are a few days old - these are called embryonic stem cells. Umbilical cord blood is also plentiful with stem cells - these are called fetal stem cells are ethically legitimate to use

3. What classes of stem cells are there?

Stem cells are classified as being totipotent, pluripotent or multipotent. Totipotent stem cells are able to develop into an entire organism. Pluripotent stem cells are able to develop into all the cell types of the body but not into an entire organism and multipotent stem cells are only able to develop into a particular subset of specialised cell types

4. Why do scientists want to use stem cells?

Scientists believe that they may be able to use stem cells as replacements for people with various diseases. For example, scientists have turned stem cells into neurons which can be used to treat people with brain disorders or spinal-cord injuries

5. Have there been any treatment success from using stem cells?

There have been NO successful treatments from using embryonic stem cells. A number of scientists have claimed success from these stem cells but they have subsequently been found out as being hoaxes. Adult stem cells are having considerable success in treating a wide range of illnesses and have thus far been beneficial in over 73 different conditions

6. Why have there been no success with embryonic stem cell research?

There are three main reasons why there have been no successes recorded from using embryonic stem cells. Firstly, embryonic stem cell research is very inefficient. It is very difficult to isolate embryonic stem cells from human embryos and convert them into usable stem cell lines. Many, many embryos are need to generate just a few stem cells. Secondly, embryonic stem cells multiply indefinitely and so, like cancer cells, run a very high risk of forming tumours in patients. Lastly, because stem cells have a genetic make-up that is different from that of the patient, there is a major problem with immune rejection. Just as a body tries to destroy transplanted organs, it too will reject stem cells of a different genetic make-up

7. What is the controversy surrounding embryonic stem cell research?

Much controversy surrounds embryonic stem cell research as this type of research necessitates the destruction of the human embryo. This type of research constitutes the destruction of human life and destroying embryos for the purposes of harvesting their cells reduces early human life to the status of research material

8. Are embryonic stem cells better than adult stem cells?

There has been much hype about embryonic stem cell research and its potential for cures. The truth however is that to date, there have been no successful therapies using stem cells derived from human embryos. The hype about embryonic stem cells has given many patients a false hope about cures. It is clear that all of the therapies from stem cells have come from adult and umbilical cord blood cells. These stem cells do not run the same risk of tumour formation and immune rejection as embryonic stem cells and are ethically legitimate to use. More resources should be put towards developing more cures using adult stem cells and not wasted on the failed medicine that is embryonic stem cell research

9. What is therapeutic cloning.

Therapeutic cloning involves the cloning of human embryos for use in medical research. It is sometimes referred to as "regenerative medicine". The technique used in therapeutic cloning is the very same as the technique used in reproductive cloning, as both result in a cloned human embryo. Cloning is performed by a procedure known as Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT), they type of cloning that brought Dolly the sheep into being.