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Stem Cells: Cells with Potential
Mouse embryonic stem cells

Looking forward

There’s no question that stem cell research holds great potential bringing new knowledge and treatments to medicine. In fact, the field is still so new that many of its possibilities are remain unknown. As a consequence, some of the ethical issues raised by this research are also new to us. It will take time and resources to understand the many ways that advances in using stem cells will change medicine.

In confronting the need to wrestle with difficult questions, stem cell science is like many other fields of medical research. In most cases, the approach to dealing with sensitive research has been to establish regulations—often spearheaded by the United States as a leader in biomedical research—that are accepted by scientists worldwide.

Dr. Bruce Conklin, who studies mouse stem cells at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and the University of California, San Francisco, points out that pursuing important treatments in an appropriately ethical environment requires a solid legal framework for researchers to work within. “There are ethical land mines out there, but it’s not a reason to shy away,” he says. “It’s more a reason for us to lead with the appropriate ethical and scientific standards that we’ve worked hard to establish in other fields.”

To learn more:

Stem cell information from the NIH:

The Promise and Perplexities of Stem Cells:
Academies Weigh In on Hotly Debated Research Area of Regenerative Medicine From the National Academies of Science http://www.infocusmagazine.org/1.2/science_society.html

Download the National Academies booklet “Understanding Stem Cells: An Overview of the Science and Issues”