Pluripotent embryonic stem cells

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Embryonic stem cells are cells derived from the embryo when it is at the blastocyst stage (about 4 - 5 days after fertilisation in humans[1]). Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning that they are the most potent of all stem cells and can give rise to any cell type.

Embryonic stem cells, first extracted from the inner cell mass of the early mouse embryo[2], have huge potential for developing treatments for many diseases. Depending on the culture that the cells are grown in, they can be used to grow new tissues for replacing damaged tissues in a range of diseases. Some potential uses include treatment for:

However, despite these benefits , there are various ethical issues surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells in medicine. These issues arise from the fact that when the cells are removed, the blastocyst no longer has the potential to develop into a human being[3]. Because of these concerns, the creation of embryonic stem cell lines is prohibited in several European countries. However, it is permitted in the UK[4] and USA[5], for certain approved research projects only.

References

  1. Eversheds, 15th November 2011, Education Briefing- A New Way to be Human. Available at: https://www.eversheds.com/uk/home/articles/index1.page?ArticleID=templatedata%5CEversheds%5Carticles%5Cdata%5Cen%5CEducation%5CEducation_A_new_way_to_be_human_151111 (last accessed 24/11/11)
  2. Alberts B. (2007) Molecular Biology of the Cell, page 505, 5th edition, New York: Garland Science
  3. Stem Cells at the National Acadamies (2009) Stem Cells Basics. Available at: http://dels-old.nas.edu/bls/stemcells/types-of-stem-cells.shtml#embryonic (last accessed 24/11/11)
  4. Euro Stem Cell (2007) What Does the Law Say About Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research in the UK? Available at: http://www.eurostemcell.org/faq/what-does-law-say-about-human-embryonic-stem-cell-research-uk (last accessed 24/11/11)
  5. Stem Cell Information (2011) Federal Policy. Available at: http://stemcells.nih.gov/policy (last accessed 24/11/11)
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