Bioethics Blogs

Non-Embryonic Stem Cells and Malaria Treatment

A recent study from MIT (available here) has found that stem cells developed from blood and skin samples can be manufactured into liver like cells. The implications of this are exciting on two different levels: 1) this is another success for ethically derived stem cells; 2) this study is being used to develop treatment for malaria – a disease that has a lifelong impact on those it affects.

The use of stem cells for the development of treatments for various diseases is something frequently researched in the scientific community, and often debated in the bioethics community. Stem cells are valued because of their potential to grow into different types of cells. The debate stems (no pun intended) from the source of the stem cells. Some proponents of stem cell research argue that research should focus on embryonic stem cells – which necessitates the destruction of a human being at the embryonic stage to harvest the stem cells. This is not a method that is consistent with recognizing the dignity of every individual human being, as it requires the destruction of a human in its earliest stages to potentially benefit people in later developmental stages. However, other proponents of stem cell research believe that the research should only use non-embryonic stem cells. These stem cells can be manufactured from donated skin or blood cells, or even obtained from the umbilical cord after a baby is born. Proponents of non-embryonic stem cell use focus on its ethical origins – no embryos are destroyed – as well as the potential of personalized application in medicine (your body is less likely to reject treatment developed from your own cells).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.