Bioethics News

Ethical reflection on the latest biomedical experiments by Juan Carlos Izpisua and his group

Juan Carlos Izpisua biomedical experiments. They present serious ethical problems primarily because some of them use human embryonic stem cells

pdfOver the last few days, some of the biomedical experiments conducted by Juan Carlos Izpisua and his group — in which researchers from several Spanish universities take part — have been widely reported by various media.

Let us say at the outset that we see no need to highlight the biomedical importance of these experiments (some of which we would dare describe as spectacular), as this has already been abundantly emphasised by the media. Quite another matter is the possibility of being able to use what they have achieved in human medicine, which could take several years.

The bioethical aspects of these experiments have scarcely been addressed, however, and we believe they merit consideration.

Before we go any further, and in order to structure this report, the experiments by Izpisua to which we are referring should be divided into three groups. Concisely (although we will refer to this in more detail below) they are: a) to create quasi-human organs in animals, to be ultimately used for clinical transplants; b) to modify the CRISPR technique that offers so many biomedical possibilities, to make it more efficient, and c) to apply cell reprogramming “in vivo”, to try to rejuvenate a group of experimental animals.

  1. To create quasi-human organs in animals.

chimeraThese experiments were first reported in an article published in Nature in May 2015. They essentially consist in injecting human embryonic stem cells into mice so that they can generate quasi-human organs, since the human cells injected into the animal will produce organs with a genome that is very close to the human one.

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.