• Research that may lead to revolutionary new therapies to treat cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, spinal cord injury, heart disease, and many other debilitating conditions. Do the promises of stem cell research offer a realistic treatment or cure for these diseases?

  • A woman who does not want to, or who medically cannot, carry her fetus to term. Would she ever consider using a genetically modified cow possessing a human uterus as her surrogate? In the not too distant future, stem cell research may allow scientists to create such a human-animal chimera. What would be the risks of such a gestational scenario?

  • When there is a need to obtain histocompatible stem cells to treat a child who is ill, is it ethical to obtain and develop compatible embryonic stem cells from a pre-implanted embryo, knowing that the blastocyst will be destroyed in the process of deriving the desired stem cells?

While these scenarios may once have seemed like futuristic science fiction, advances in stem cell technology are bringing them closer to possibilities, if not to probabilities. In fact, desperate patients across the globe are traveling to countries such as China and the Caribbean to participate in unproven stem cell “therapies.”

Bartolo Colón

Bartolo ColónFollow-up: Bartolo Colón during the 2011 season has an 8 and 9 record with an Earned Run Average (ERA) of 3.63.

A good example is Yankee baseball pitcher Bartolo Colon, who underwent an as yet unproven procedure in the Dominican Republic in the spring of 2011. Doctors extracted stem cells from his bone marrow and fatty tissue and transplanted them into his elbow and shoulder. After his recovery, he signed a new one-year, $900,000, contract with the Yankees and is back throwing pitches at 95 miles an hour. His resurgence has increased the demand for the controversial procedure that utilizes stem cells to treat injured athletes.

Recently, stem cell science has made rapid progress, revealing entirely new scientific opportunities that will enable the development of future treatments for a wide variety of medical conditions. Many of these experimental or medical breakthroughs will have an unprecedented societal impact. It is imperative to carefully evaluate these developments from diverse viewpoints including ethical, legal, religious, economic, cultural, political, as well as scientific perspectives. Together, these disciplines will shape both public policy and personal health decisions.

We believe that cell biologists, clinicians, and bio- and neuro-ethicists can work together to celebrate advances, while simultaneously helping to inform and protect patients and the broader community concerning what might be considered inappropriate or premature applications of novel stem cell technologies. This will not be an easy process. We must engage in ongoing reasoned and informed discourse to ensure safe and appropriate innovations and applications of this new technology.
While the promise of stem cell therapies excites us, it also energizes YouTube creators to craft entertaining skits. You may enjoy this one that parodies the hype of stem cell research and disease.

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