stem cell research notes - PHL116 Ethical Issues...

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PHL116 Ethical Issues Surrounding Use of Embryonic Stem Cells in Medical Research I. Background A. Definitions First isolation of human embryonic stem cells was in November 1998. Pleurypotent. An embryonic stem cell is an undifferentiated cell produced after a fertilized egg has divided several times and developed into a blastocyst. A blastocyst is essentially a hollow ball of cells with an internal mass that consists of 15-20 embryonic stem cells. These stem cells have the potential to become any one of a number of specialized cells (e.g., to become neurons, or liver cells, or heart cells). Adult stem cells are already specialized cells that have a particular function associated with the cell type that they have become. Embryonic stem cells may be obtained from two sources. First, excess embryos that have been produced for fertility treatments that have gone unused can be destroyed to obtain stem cells. Second, embryonic germ cells can be obtained from aborted fetuses and cultured in order to produce stem cells. The end result of both processes is the same: a set of embryonic stem cells. (Munson 271) Adult stem cells can be used for those specific tissues for which they have become specialized. However it is also possible that an adult stem cell taken from one area of the body, e.g., bone marrow, can be injected into another area of the body: e.g., the heart, to produce new cells in that area. In such cases the cells taken from one area and injected into the other respond to the biochemical environment of the new area and they become reprogrammed to produce the kind of cells found in that area. [272] B. Uses for Stem Cells Stem cells are referred to by biologists as “immortal cell lines” because they can replicate for an indefinite number of generations without dying or accumulating errors. If researchers can determine how to control the development of stem cells into differentiated functioning cells, they may be able to repair
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This note was uploaded on 06/15/2011 for the course PHL 116 taught by Professor Sullivan during the Fall '09 term at University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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stem cell research notes - PHL116 Ethical Issues...

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