The stem cell controversy


In Renewing the Stuff of Life, Cynthia Cohen lays out the complex issues surrounding the generation of embryonic stem (ES) cells from human embryos. Her goal is to establish a framework for regulating ES cell research in the United States. The book is written in an easy, flowing style with many references and footnotes that will keep the lay reader, trained scientist and medical doctor turning the pages. Although stem cell aficionados will skip lightly through the basic descriptions of stem cell biology, they should slow down in the sections on the moral significance of the human embryo in both secular and religious thought. This is clearly where Cohen comes alive in the narrative, drawing on her philosophy training to put forward her wellstructured arguments. I particularly appreciated how she was able to move rapidly through the different religious views regarding the point at which life begins without getting bogged down in any one area. The resulting overview was refreshing and provided a firm knowledge base for moving to the next set of ethical issues, those relating to the production of humananimal chimeras—what is acceptable in society with regards to generating such animals? What experiments are required to move the field forward? What are the restrictions that should be placed on the researcher? These issues are discussed in detail, but with an eye on the big picture. Cohen next takes the reader on a trip around the world to look at how the ‘stuff of life’ is used and legislated in three different countries: the UK, Germany and Japan. These are good choices, as each country has divergent ideas on how to regulate this field of research. The UK is at one end of the spectrum, having the most liberal stance and, under government supervision, allowing the derivation of new lines from embryos. Germany is at the other end, banning the creation of new lines entirely, while ironically allowing the importation of established lines from other countries. Cohen then discusses US policies regulating the derivation of human ES cells from embryos. These policies come across as a disorganized chimera (pun intended) of those found in the rest of the world. If you have government funding, you are only allowed to use ‘presidential’ lines approved by the National Institutes of Health. But if you have The stem cell controversy

DOI: 10.1038/nm1207-1407

Cite this paper

@article{Svendsen2007TheSC, title={The stem cell controversy}, author={Clive Niels Svendsen}, journal={Nature Medicine}, year={2007}, volume={13}, pages={1407-1407} }