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J Med Ethics 34:63-64 doi:10.1136/jme.2007.023903
  • Editorial

Time to reconsider stem cell ethics—the importance of induced pluripotent cells

The discovery of an alternative method of producing induced human stem cells will affect the ethical evaluation of human embryonic stem cell research

On 20 November 2007 two groups of researchers announced that they had independently managed to produce induced Pluripotent Cells (iPC) from human adult (ie not embryonic or foetal) somatic cells.1 2 The two groups used slightly different procedures, but both approaches involved overexpression of a group of four genes known to be actively expressed in human embryonic stem cells (hESC). The cells produced are very similar to human embryonic stem cells, they are pluripotent and they differentiate to specific cell types when treated according to protocols leading to that specific differentiation in hESC.

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF THESE RESULTS FOR STEM CELL ETHICS?

There seems to be at least two areas of debate and research where there are important implications and one area where there are none.

Let us deal with the area where these results have absolutely no implications first: the contentious debate about the moral status of the embryo. Nothing in these research results will or can affect the position of those who believe that they have good arguments showing either that the embryo has no moral status at all, or that the embryo has such significant moral status that …