The stem cells from a storage
bank come from different people and often will not perfectly
match a the patients cells and so the patient's immune system
will respond in a negative way.
In other words, if the transplanted cells/tissues/organs aren't grown using the
patient's own stem cells, the patient's body might recognise the donor
cells as 'foreign' and trigger the usual immune response to attack
and remove invasive cells.
The clinicians will do their
best to match the donated stem cells with the patient's body
Quite often, the transplant
patient has to take drugs to suppress the body's natural immune
response and avoid rejection of the donated cells, but this makes the patient more susceptible to other
The problem of rejection can
be minimised by using the patient's own stem cells from
somewhere else in the body - the idea being the body's immune
system will recognise them as non-foreign and not offer a
This is despite the obvious great medical benefit to individual patients of using
stem cell therapy and therapeutic cloning.
Stem cell research is necessary
to find out more how to use this new area of medicine and how to
develop and extend the range of effective medical treatments,
BUT, public education about
stem cell research and applications is essential because of the
moral and ethical implications of this new biotechnology.
The use of embryonic stem
cells, obtained from a living human embryo, is especially
Moral question: Is it
morally right or wrong to use embryonic stem cells for research
Is it right to create an
embryo for research or medical treatments that you will
ultimately destroy after extracting stem cells?
We need, as a society, to ethically discuss reasons
whether the use of embryonic stem cells is right or wrong.
'Pros and cons': We have
to weigh up the potential medical benefits from successful
stem cell treatments versus the moral and ethical objection
of such procedures.
Do the medical benefits
outweigh moral and ethical objections.
Also, should patients be
given false hope by giving/requesting an unproven stem cell
based medical treatment?
The ethical issue of using
embryos for medical purposes is abhorrent to some people who would argue
that human embryos shouldn't be used to provide stem cells
because the embryo is destroyed in the process - removing one
that had the potential for human life.
People, perhaps of a
particular religious belief, argue that life begins at
conception and the embryo has rights like any other human being.
So, where does a human life really begin? Your choice?
This is the argument of
'potential life' versus help for seriously ill 'living people' i.e. each
embryo has the potential to develop into a human being, but equally
potently, using embryonic stem cells might save a life.
In other words
the rights of suffering patients overrides the rights of the embryo
- would you deny blind people to the right to see again?
It is possible to use unwanted
embryos from fertility clinics (IVF) because there is no other source of universal
stem cells and these unwanted embryos would be destroyed.
(IVF: Fertility treatments
involving in-vitro fertilisation)
embryos often come from fertility clinics and would be destroyed if
not used for research purposes - but this argument would not satisfy
campaigners want to completely ban the use of human embryos.
Many campaigners believe
scientific research should be directed towards finding and
developing other sources of stem cells and avoid the use of human
Stem cell research is allowed
in some countries like the UK, but there are very strict rules
and guidelines as to how it can be carried out.
UK law does now allow embryos
to be created for scientific research.
research is completely banned in some countries.
However, there are stocks of
stem cells that scientists can use to continue their research
without involving the use of more embryos - this is allowed in
the UK but not in the USA.
As already mentioned, another
possible source of stem cells is blood left in the umbilical
cord and placenta after a baby is born.
Cord blood is easy to
collect and store and avoids the ethical issues involved
with using stem cells from embryos.