Potentiality of embryonic stem cells: an ethical problem even with alternative stem cell sources

Journal of Medical Ethics 32 (11):665-671 (2006)
The recent discussions about alternative sources of human embryonic stem cells , while stirring new interest in the developmental potential of the various abnormal embryos or constructs proposed as such sources, also raise questions about the potential of the derived embryonic stem cells. The data on the developmental potential of embryonic stem cells that seem relevant for ethical considerations and aspects of patentability are discussed. Particular attention is paid to the meaning of “totipotency, omnipotency and pluripotency” as illustrated by a comparison of the developmental potential of three-dimensional clusters of blastomeres , embryonic stem cells, somatic or stem cells or other somatic cells. This paper focuses on embryoid bodies and on direct cloning by tetraploid complementation. Usage and patenting of these cells cannot be considered to be ethically sound as long as totipotency and tetraploid complementability of embryonic stem cells are not excluded for the specific cell line in question. Testing this poses an ethical problem in itself and needs to be discussed in the future
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DOI 10.1136/jme.2005.014738
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