The Stem Cell Debate

Purpose. The use of human embryos for stem cell based researches is currently high on the ethical and political agenda in many countries. Despite their immense plasticity and promising potential in regenerative and reconstructive medicine, the use of human embryonic stem cells (HESC) remains controversial because of their derivation from killing early embryos. This paper addresses complex bio-ethical and social issues related with the instrumental use of embryos and HESC in context of state-of-the-art research on development of stem cell based transplantation therapy.

Methods. Published literature with strict inclusion and exclusion criteria was extensively reviewed through use of general and meta search engines to elucidate the applications and implications of HESC in modern medicine. A systematic meta-analysis of 95 representative articles from the year 2000-2010 was performed.

Results .Numerous studies have demonstrated that environmental, political, and societal factors are important contributors to the development of stem cell researches and policy models in any country. The therapeutic potential of HESC is indisputable but complex social and moral issues remain hopelessly intertwined beneath the pleasant facade.

Conclusions. Stem cell research is dynamic and alluring. It opens up novel therapeutic avenues to alleviate most of Man's ailments at the cellular level, in terms of organ replacement, reversing ageing and disease phenomenon and eliminating congenital or inherited disorders. Yet there are many questions and `unknowns' in terms of crossing moral, religious and biological boundaries when it comes to matters of deciding about 'Life &death' , 'Eternal life' , 'Chimeras', 'A-temporal existence' , 'Teratogenecity' , 'Immune rejections'…. The list is long and demands some serious reflection. New insights into the effectiveness, risks and usefulness of HESC and exploring various uncontroversial alternatives may have immediate consequences for the ethical evaluation and legal standardization of the isolation of HESC. While a categorical ban on reproductive cloning is at present unjustified and premature; stem cell debates must be progressed with caution to avoid untimely political truncation of the true potential of these cells. In the end, the wisdom to choose wisely between 'responsible utilization' and 'senseless exploitation' rests with us.

Author(s): Tehseen Fatima Ali1 , Dr. Tabinda Hasan, Dr. A. R. Siddiqui

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