Introduction to Stem Cell Research: Description of the Modules and the Supplements


Module 1 - Biology of Stem Cell Science

This module will discuss the scientific evolution of stem cell research from the mouse to the human.
  • Supplement 1. Brief Legal and Political History of Stem Cell Science
  • Challenge: How will legal challenges relating to stem cell research funding and patenting of genes be resolved? Is federal oversight of embryonic research a probability?

Module 2 – Introduction to Stem Cell Bioethics

This module presents the evolving landscape of bioethical implications of deriving human stem cells from the embryo, to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell technology, to cloning, and beyond.
  • Challenge: When does human life begin?
  • Case Study: Can a couple use pre-implantation genetics to produce a child whose bone marrow stem cells will be used to save the life of a sibling with Fanconi Anemia?
  • Supplement 2. Animal Rights and Welfare in the Context of Stem Cell Research
  • Case Study: Chimeras cross the boundaries of species. Should governments restrict the use of non-human primates in research if stem cells and genetic engineering technology are used to enhance human-like behaviors in these animals?

Module 3 - Cellular Differentiation

This module presents the underlying genetic basis of cellular differentiation. We review the history of cell differentiation as it has been applied to stem cell research.
  • Challenge: How do you transform a stem cell into a neuron?

Module 4 - Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT)

This module describes how the cloning of Dolly opened up new scientific and bioethical conundrums.
  • Challenge: Under what circumstances is it ethical and scientifically sound to engage in therapeutic cloning?
  • Supplement 3. History of Vertebrate Cloning
  • Supplement 4. Ethical Considerations of Egg Donation
  • Supplement 5. The Cloning Scandal of Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk: A Cautionary Tale

Module 5 - Induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) Cells

This model describes the history and basic principles of iPS that have dramatically changed the direction of stem cell research.
  • Challenge: What innovative scientific principles emerged from iPS research?

Module 6 - Human Hematopoietic System: A View into Human Stem Cell Biology

This module describes how basic principles of immunology have been incorporated into stem cell biology.
  • Challenge: What clinical advantage does using human hematopoietic stem cells have over using bone marrow-derived cells.

Module 7 – Human-Animal Chimeras

This module describes the use of stem cells to create human-animal chimeras in studies that have had a dramatic scientific impact on organ transplantation and organ regeneration. In addition, generating human-animal chimeras have elicited heated debates on the definition of human species and what makes human beings a unique organism.
  • Challenge: Is it ethical to reconstitute an animal with human neurons or human reproductive organs?

Module 8 - Medical and non-medical applications of Stem Cell Science

This comprehensive module outlines the most compelling and emerging advances in applying stem cell technologies to health care.
  • Challenge: Who should pay for the huge costs of engaging in clinical studies of stem cell technology?
  • Supplement 6 Research Ethics and the Ethical Conduct of Clinical Trials
  • Case Study: Stem cell biology is constantly evolving. The public is finding it increasingly difficult to fully comprehend the risks and benefits of stem cell applications. How should physicians educate and advise desperate patients who want to participate either in long-range FDA approved clinical trials, that will take much time and may not benefit them, or immediately seek unproven “therapies” not offered in the US, in the hope of improving their paralysis?


Course Glossary

Links scientific terms in the text to a list where each term is defined in a clear and non-technical manner.

References and Resources

Lists all cited references as well as full list of resources, scientific publications, other media, and web sites useful for further study.

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