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Inside Story

The ethics of medical progress

How will a 'breakthrough' in stem cell research affect the controversy around the use of human embryos?

Last updated: 01 Feb 2014 10:56
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A new method of producing stem cells is being described as a "game-changing" scientific breakthrough.

It is said that the research, carried out by scientists in Japan, could hail a new era of personalised medicine, offering hope to sufferers of diseases such as stroke, heart disease and spinal cord injuries.

The scientists bathed blood cells in a weak acidic solution for half an hour, which made the adult cells shrink and go back to their embryonic stem cell state. Using this process, a patient's own specially created stem cells could then be re-injected back into the body to help mend damaged organs.

The scientists in Japan used mice in this experiment but believe the approach may also work on human cells too.

The new method - much cheaper and faster than before - is being heralded as revolutionary, and could bring stem cell therapy a step closer, and all without the controversy linked to the use of human embryos.

But there is still research that some find ethically questionable.

On Inside Story: Is the controversy over using human embryos over? And how should ethics determine medical progress?

Presenter: Shiulie Ghosh

Guests:

Dusko Ilic, a reader in Stem Cell Science at King's College London School of Medicine

Julian Hitchcock, a lawyer from Lawford Davies Denoon and a member of the UK government's Emerging Science & Bioethics Advisory Committee.

Catherine Prescott, the founding director of Biolatris Ltd and former chair of the UK National Stem Cell Network.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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