Bioethics News

What is the current clinical usefulness of stem cell treatments, embryonic and iPS cells?

Human adult stem cells (iPS) have been found to be most clinically useful human cells for therapeutic purposes

Pluripotent cells (PCs) are defined as those from which cells of different tissue types can be obtained. These can be obtained either from preimplantation human embryonic cells, in which case pluripotent embryonic stem cells are obtained, or from somatic (adult) cells that can be reprogrammed to a state of pluripotentiality, called induced pluripotent cells (iPS cells).

Ad present stem cell treatments with human adult stem cells have been found to be most clinically useful human cells for therapeutic purposes, especially cells from bone marrow, peripheral blood, umbilical cord blood or other tissues. Mesenchymal cells obtained from bone marrow, placenta and the umbilical cord are particularly useful. These cells have the advantage of having low immunogenicity and the disadvantage that after being transplanted, they persist for very little time in the recipient, which poses problems for maintaining their effect over time. These cells can be obtained from the patients themselves or from external donors, which gives rise to autologous therapy (which uses cells from the patient themselves) or allogenic therapy (which uses cells from individuals other than the patient). Their use has so far given good results as regards their safety, which has been evaluated in very diverse clinical trials. However, pluripotent cells, both embryonic and iPS cells, have limited clinical applications as they have been used in little more than ocular diseases. Therefore, it is of no interest to analyse this clinical usefulness at present, following a magnificent review recently published in Nature Reviews/Molecular Cell Biology (17; 194-200, 2016).

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.